RANGOON — Due to the lingering effects of torrential flooding and El Niño, Burma’s rice export volume is expected to dip in the 2015-16 fiscal year, industry experts said.
With just one month left in the fiscal year, which began in April 2015, rice export volume has reached only 1 million tons, according to figures from the Ministry of Commerce.
Myint Cho, director of the Ministry of Commerce, said that he expects rice exports to fall short by more than 200,000 tons, with the exact figure currently at 1.037 million tons, compared to the 1.255 tons that had been exported over the same period last year.
“We won’t match last year’s record, with the major reasons being the floods last year [in July and August] and the fact that some rice exporters and traders are concerned about not having rice for the summer [because of El Niño], so they’re storing rice,” Myint Cho said.
“Rice prices increased last year because of these floods, so traders are preparing for prices to remain the same this time. There’s also less production here,” he added.
By the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, Burma exported a total of 1.84 million tons of rice, including broken rice. Of this, 1.3 million tons went to China. Besides China, Burma also exports rice to Germany, Indonesia, Poland, Singapore and Thailand.
In recent weeks the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) has been urging the government to prepare rice reserves for a potentially extreme El Niño period in the months ahead.
Ye Min Aung, MRF secretary, said that the public sector should also prepare rice reserves because of the potentially severe weather on the horizon.
“I’m not concerned about summer paddies but about rain paddies, because it [El Niño] may delay rain for the harvest season later. We should keep an eye on this,” Ye Min Aung said.
“We’ll also have to be careful about market speculation, because if some traders try to speculate how the market will move, the price of rice could increase.”
Despite an official Chinese ban on Burmese rice imports, traders in Burma have recently been focusing on trade across the Sino-Burmese border. Moreover, domestic prices have increased compared to normal trade prices in the world market, Myint Cho explained.
“The world price is less than US$400 per ton, while the Chinese price is over $400, so most [of Burma’s] rice is going to China,” he said.
Ministry figures estimate that Burma produced more than 13 million tons of rice over 23 million acres of paddy during the fiscal year 2014-15. At least 9 million tons were used for local consumption, while about 1.8 million tons went to the export market.