Myanmar’s rice farmers are facing a bitter harvest. With the price of agricultural inputs more than doubling since the start of the year and market conditions more unpredictable than ever, cash-strapped farmers faced a tough choice: take on more debt to buy their usual amount of agricultural inputs, or reduce their use of fertiliser, insecticide and weedkiller.
Many have chosen the safer option of spending less, but this will almost certainly result in a lower yield of paddy from this year’s monsoon season crop.
U Myint Wai is the owner of a 100-acre farm in Maletto village, in Ayeyarwady Region’s Maubin Township, and normally averages 70 baskets of paddy an acre. He told Frontier that farmers like him had had to cut costs drastically just to cope with the pandemic, and he’s expecting a drop in yield of up to 30 percent.
“Farmers can use only one-third of the inputs they used the previous year,” he said. “The per-acre yield will certainly be reduced. A plot that used to yield 70 baskets per acre may now yield only 50 baskets.”
Paddy farmers told Frontier that the price of a bag of fertiliser that had cost K20,000 (about US$10 at an exchange rate of K2,000 to the dollar) last year, was selling for K50,000 (about $25).
Since the coup, Myint Wai said, most farmers have been struggling just to make ends meet, let alone save for the future. Although increased joblessness from the pandemic and political unrest means there is no shortage of labour, many farmers simply can’t afford to hire the people they need to bring in the harvest.