Demand for rice produced in Myanmar has risen to its highest level in 50 years in the current 2017-18 fiscal year, with rice exports estimated to have increased to 2.5 million-2.8 million tonnes compared to the previous estimate of 2.2 million tonnes, said U Khin Maung Lwin, assistant secretary of the Ministry of Commerce.
U Nay Lin Zin, joint-secretary of Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF), said Myanmar’s rice exports should be worth up to $800 million this fiscal year.
So far, Myanmar has exported over 2 million tonnes of rice worth $600 million in the first 8 months of the current fiscal year. That is the highest level of exports in 50 years, Dr Aung Thu, Minister of of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, said during the annual general meeting of MRF last Friday.
Myanmar’s rice exported its highest volume of rice ever during the 1930s, when it sold over 3 million tonnes to international countries. During the 1960s though, exports dropped to just a third of its peak to just over 1 million tonnes.
The country exported 1.2 million tonnes of rice worth $200 million during the same period last year.
In the previous fiscal year, total rice exports amounted to 1.7 tonnes.
The rise in exports this year was due to higher demand from countries like Africa and facilitated via government-to-government agreements between Myanmar and Sri Lanka as well as Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which are rice-exporting countries, this year faced shortages due to poor weather, which destroyed much of their paddy fields. With supply from Cambodia and Vietnam insufficient to meet those needs, demand for rice from Myanmar increased.
More than half of Myanmar’s rice exports this year were conducted by sea. Around 53pc of locally produced rice was transported to buyers via sea this year, while the remaining was sold to the Chinese at Myanmar- China border gates like Muse, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
In the past, rice trade was conducted cross-border with China. Myanmar exports 80 percent of its rice to China while the remaining 20pc is exported via sea.