Rice Production in Myanmar/Paddy Cultivation in Myanmar
Rice remains the main food in Myanmar. In terms of the production of rice, Myanmar is placed in the sixth position in the world’s rice production. Grown on ver 8 million ha, meaning that more than half of the country’s arable land, rice is the country’s most important crop not only in terms of countries GDP but also in providing the food security for the country and the rest of the world. The country has seen significant growth from 18 million tonnes to 22 million tonnes of rice production from 1995 to 2010. The growth is accounted for the expansion of the area and yield increase with advanced techniques. Despite having explosive growth in production, Myanmar has seen a dramatic drop in the in the rice exports during the period. It was attributed to the drastic growth of the country’s population that needed more food. Although the country’s annual per capita rice consumption has been declined slightly from 170 kg to 141 kg during 1990 and 2009; however, the total rice consumption has been increased by more than 60% in the same period on the account of the surge in population size. In parallel to the small drop in consumption of rice per capita, caloric intake per person from rice has been declined from 68.4% (1,451 kcal) per day to 48.3% (1,204 kcal) during the same period; however, it has been supplied from the other crops from 23.7% per day to 34.3% per day in the same period. This decrease in per capita from rice has shown the daily protein intake falling sharply from 63.6% to 34.5%. Looking back in history, Myanmar has been stood as a major rice exporter in the world, but this role has become dull due to multiple reasons in recent years.
Despite the negative situations, rice is the most important crop for Myanmar agriculture that dominates the country’s economy, but it still has great potential to increase rice production by the improvement in the several aspects such as land reclamations, effective mechanization and inputs, and good infrastructure development in both rural and urban areas. Unfortunately, the country is now importing the rice about 0.02 million tonnes annually. As the long-term trend in per capita, rice production has been reduced, the agriculture needs to be reformed and revitalized through the climate resilient and advanced technologies to bring the past glory of the country in the rice exports and increase the protein intake of the country.
Economic Contribution of the Agriculture in Myanmar
Major occupation in Myanmar is agriculture, but it possesses moderate natural resources in several parts of the country; therefore, agricultural production has been dramatically decreased. The agricultural sector contributes around 13.7% of total export earnings, and a shared GDP of 37.8%, by which the country employs 61.2% of the labor force. Owing to the various agro-ecological
conditions and large arable land area in Myanmar, several agricultural products are produced abundantly. Among all agricultural activities, rice is the major crop in terms of both the economy and food security of the country. Therefore, efficient rice production would secure more income and the export revenues for the country because the paddy production alone accounted for about 35% of the total crop area in Myanmar. Therefore, the rice farming in Myanmar potentially makes a crucial step for the reduction of the poverty, improvement in the food security for all farms, fostering a more dynamic rural sector and making the agriculture as a dynamic contributor to the national economy.
Rice Producing Zones in Myanmar
Myanmar has enormous land, good water resources, and a suitable climate for rice farming. A majority of Myanmar’s sown area is planted as the rainfed rice crop during southwest monsoon season (June-August ), whereas summer seasonal rice farming is between November and February in the lower part of the country, and in the central dry zone regions, the farming is from January to March. The rice growing in the country takes about 5-6 months. Few varieties of rice are harvested in November-December including the Ayeyarwady, Bago, and Yangon region in the lower Myanmar. The rice-growing places in Myanmar include rainfed lowland in late-sown and Main area, irrigated lowland, deepwater, and upland. During the monsoon period, rainfed lowland is the area sown bit late in the usual season. Mayin rice can be transplanted only after the monsoon when floodwater recedes. The largest of the ecosystems, the rainfed lowland, and deepwater rice are confined to the delta region and coastal strip of Rakhine State. According to the statistics, nearly 60% of the delta region, including the Ayeyarwady, Bago, and Yangon region of Lower Myanmar, is cultivated the rice under the rain feeding. Based on the rainfall and hydrologic patterns, irrigation is critical in Myanmar’s central dry zone, whereas, in the delta, there is more concern about drainage and flood protection. Most of the country’s upland area is found to be in Mandalay, Sagaing, and Shan states. However, some upland area is found in sloping land of Shan State, which is usually cold in the northern winter.
Rice is grown in several parts of the country and the percentage of the rice growing in the states and divisions of the country are as follows. The major portion of the rice growing is in the Delta of the Ayeyarwady River comprising of 33.59 % of the total harvested area, which is followed by Bango Division 17.72%, Yangon Division 10.07%, Sagaing Division 8.88%, Shan Stage 5.95%, Rakhine State 5.84%, Mon State 4.97%, Mandalay Division 4.89%, Midway Division 3.25%, Kachin State 1.93%, Tanintharyi Division 1.5%, Chin State 0.59%, Kayah State 0.5%, and Kayin State 0.31%.
Varieties of Rice Farming in Myanmar
Myanmar grows varieties of the rice breeds and there are more than 20 varieties of rice farming in Myanmar. The list of the names includes Nga-seindu-me, Byat-ga-lay, Ka-mar-ky, Maung-nyo, Shan-nyein, Nga-kywe, Emataamagyi, Pin-to-sein, Shwe-che-gyin, Hnan-war-mee-kauk, Yar-ma-gy, Let-ywesin, Let-ywe-sin-ma, Ye-baw-sein, Shwe-din-gar, Sein-ta-lay, Hmawbi-1, Hmawbi-2, Hmawbi-3, Hmawbi-4, etc.
Climate in Myanmar
Despite Myanmar being the Asian monsoonal region, the climate is significantly modified by the relief and geographic position. The transport of the air masses towards Myanmar by the monsoons influences the climate of the country. Snow to the northern mountains are brought by the cold air masses of Central Asia; therefore, the country is severely affected by the Asian monsoon winds. As we know, the mountain ranges and valleys do control the precipitation patterns in the regional sense. The country has mountains and valleys which creates precipitation patterns. Alignment of south-north ranges and valleys create a harmonic pattern of alternate zones of torrential rains and drought-prone scanty precipitations during both the monsoons- Southwest and Northeast. Although both the monsoons bring the rains in the country, the southwest monsoons result in major precipitation in the country. However, because of low-pressure creation, the west coast is occasionally subjected to tropical cyclones.
Myanmar has three distinct climatic seasons- cool, rainy and hot. During the late October to mid-February, the relatively dry northwest monsoons make the climate cold. As said earlier, the southwest monsoons result in most of the rains in the country during the mid-May to late October. The middle of the northwest and southeast monsoonal season (mid-February to mid-May) transport the hot and dry winds towards the country. As is obvious from the southwest monsoon, the coastal regions, the western and southeastern mountain ranges receive at least 5,000 mm of rain annually, while the flat and delta regions receive about half of the coastal regions. Being away from the coasts and leeward side, also known as the rain shadow region, of the mountain ranges, such as the Rakhine, the Central region receives the least amount of precipitation ( only 500 to 1,000 mm per year). Because, if its elevation, the Shan Plateau usually receives the precipitation of range between 1,900 and 2,000 mm per year.
Soil Types and Fertility for Rice Farming in Myanmar
The land-use division at the Myanmar Agricultural Service takes care of the country’s soil surveys and maps the soils. The soil, in terms of texture classification, comprises silt, sand, and clay. The soils in which the major portion is silt is classified as alluvial or fertile soil. They are found in any region of the country, the river plains, deltas, former lakes, and coastal areas, regardless of relief. The reaction from the soils are usually neutral and being the young soils developed from the recent alluvial deposits at the river plains, the soils are rich in plant nutrients. Easily tilled, these are very important soils for agriculture. They are good for rice, vegetables, pulses and beans, chilli, sugarcane, plantation crops, and maize. Along with the alluvial soils, there different subtypes of Meadow soils that are widely occurred in many parts of the country’s river plains, delta, and low coastal plains and valleys. All types of Meadow soils contain mostly clay texture and have thick solum. These soil types are most suitable for the paddy cultivation. The Dry zone Meadow soils in upper Myanmar have the characteristics of light colors. These are Meadow soils with neutral reaction; however, some of the Meadow soils have the alkaline reactions. The alkalinity in those regions is attributed to the occurrence of the carbonates in the soils. Although having a deficiency in plant nutrients, these soils may be used for pulses and vegetables.
The Meadow soils are found in the elevated mountainous region having high rainfall and the Meadow soils of the lower Myanmar. The lower soils are yellow-brown in color with acid to neutral soil reaction as these meadows soils occur near the river plains with occasional tidal floods, which are noncarbonate. However, they usually contain greater amounts of salts and contain more plant nutrients than the Meadow soils of Upper Myanmar. Regardless of the more content of iron, the soils may be utilized for rice and vegetables. Meadow Alluvial soils (aka fluvic Gleysols) can be found in the flood plains of the country. They are the textured with silty clay loam and they can be utilized for groundnut, sesame, sunflower, jute, sugarcane, and vegetables in addition to rice cultivation. They are neutral in the soil reaction and are rich in available plant nutrients. The Meadow Gley soils (Gleysol) and Meadow swampy (Histic Gleysol) occur in the regions of lower depressions where the lands are inundated for more than 6 months in a year. The soil texture in these types are from clayey to clay, and they usually have a very strong acid reaction, and may also contain a large amount of iron. Moreover, these type of soils with long periods of moisture content may contain a large amount of soluble iron, aluminum, sulfur, and manganese by a chemical process; therefore, the soils may be toxic to plants. Because of the humus content is high and usually deficient in phosphorus and potassium, rice and jute can be grown on these soils after the floods recede.
The Dry zone Dark Compact soils occur in the plains of Sagaing, Mandalay and Magway divisions. They usually occur on the lowlands near the rivers and broad depression in the areas of Red Brown Savanna Soils. They are good soils for agriculture in the Dry zone area. The texture is mostly clayey and the soils are deep. Found on the level plains, they are known to be the best soils for irrigated farming. Due to high clay content, it is too difficult to work when the soil is either too dry or too have excessive moisture. In these soils, the humus content is very low and in the dry state, they are deeply cracked. However, after rains, they quickly turn into mud and sticky. Because of low pore-size, the infiltration in these soils is also very poor. Consequently, more care should be taken for saline and alkali problems. The soils are alkaline with the pH ranging from 7 to 9 so they may be strongly calcareous. They are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorus, but the potassium is high. Also, these soils contain a considerable amount of calcium and magnesium. Contained the required nutrients, the soils can be used for rice farming under sufficient irrigation.
Nutrient Management for Rice Farming in Myanmar
Fertilizer use in Myanmar has been decreasing and notably very low. In 2009, the farmers applied only 5 kg NPK per ha of arable land, which was just 25% of the amount applied in 1995. Therefore, it shows a much lower level for rice production. Despite the lesser use of fertilizer in some areas, the production of rice went up at 3% per year in 2005-10. Although the modern varieties are cultivated extensively, the farmers are not achieving the yield potential of these modern varieties because of lower amounts of inputs (e.g., fertilizer and herbicide) are applied. The statistics show that rice yield surged to 4.1 t/ha in 2010 from about 3 t/ha in 1995 and yield growth rate was 1.9% per year during 2005-10. Also, the yield of rice reached 4 t/ha in 2008 but stagnated since then. It could be attributed to the lower amount of fertilizer applied by rice farmers.
Rice Production in Myanmar: Constraints and Opportunities
In the country, a provision of credit facilities enables the farmers to buy the agricultural inputs needed to achieve higher yield/production. Also, adequate irrigation facilities are required for a steady and the required supply of water, rather than depending solely on erratic rainfall especially in the central plains or dry areas. In addition to these, better rice mills, storage facilities, and roads for farm-to-market would ensure the high-quality milled rice for exporting. A premium price and the lower transportation costs for farmers’ ensures the economy of the agricultural families and the countries economy of the whole country. In the context of the above, the following set of interventions would improve the country’s agricultural economy: (1) increase access to credit for the farmers, traders, and millers; (2) increase the farm-gate price of paddy in order to encourage farmers to produce more paddy; and (3) provide finance for small-scale village infrastructure projects to increase demand for wage labor for the rural poor. In this regard, the government provides credit programs for low-income farmers in the Mandalay region. In addition to this, to buy rice seeds and other agricultural inputs, the private companies are encouraged by the government to provide microfinance to rice farmers.
Efficient utilization of machinery, in the entire process of rice farming – land preparation, harvesting, and post-harvesting activities, is needed for the increase in cropping intensity and the productivity. After the country’s independence, agriculture mechanization schemes involving in the distribution of farm machinery to farmers were implemented by the government. Although the required machinery is produced, it is not sufficient. Myanmar is still lag behind in modern agricultural production, especially in the application of farm mechanization, although it has been exploring the use of agricultural machinery for crop cultivation instead of traditional cattle and manpower. The use of advanced agricultural tools such as tillers, and other machinery in rice production is paramount; it would raise rice productivity, the processing time is reduced, and increases the economy of the country. The modern agricultural tools not only increases land and labor productivity but reduce the intervention of human and animal labor. The effort in this regard was entirely successful due to the lack of skilled and experienced manpower. As a result, agricultural production in Myanmar is more or less traditional still. In conclusion, Myanmar is a top ten rice producing country with overall exporting in the past but the present a small quantity of rice is being imported because of explosive growth in the country population. Despite being potential to increase the production further, the fertilizers, and advanced machinery usage and management is a critical factor to lag behind improve the production of the rice in Myanmar. Furthermore, a major part of the rice cultivation is rainfed, but the climate in Myanmar is not consistent; therefore, the climate also affects the production of the rice. However, advanced irrigation techniques may improve production significantly.