Contract Farming — A New Dimension in Paddy Cultivation



Historically, Myan­mar’s economy is based on agriculture, and so, the major products of the national economy are agricultural prod­ucts. As stated by the agricultural census conducted in 2003, there are 3.46 million households en­gaged in agricultural activities with 8.7 million acres of land put under cultivation, it is learnt.


As agriculture is the main sector of Myanmar’s economy, 60 per cent of GDP comes from this sector with 65 per cent of the labour force being engaged in ag­ricultural activities.


Back in 1901, there were only eight and a half million acres of land put under cultivation of paddy. Nevertheless, the pad­dy-cultivation acres increased to 12.5 million after four decades in 1941. And when World War II broke out in 1945, Myanmar was also stricken by armed conflicts with the result that the draft cat­tle — the buffaloes and the oxen — were killed in the war by the thousands. The Japanese fascist troops slaughtered the cattle for their curry. With great losses of the farming animals, agricultural activities declined, and the acres of land put under cultivation also decreased. As a consequence, there were only 11.5 million acres of land even in 1961.


Out of the total acres of land under cultivation — i.e. over 17 million acres, about 12 million acres of land were put under culti­vation of paddy between 1938 and 1940. Obviously, paddy has always been the major crop. This is the reason why paddy is called met­aphorically the lifeblood, the pre­cious gem of Myanmar. And the Delta Area — i.e. the Ayeyawady Region is called the rice barn met­aphorically.


Cultivation of paddy plays a significant part in the agricultural sector of Myanmar with paddy cultivation accounting for 34 per cent of cultivation of all crops. In 2013, a total of 27 million tons of rice were produced. For all small and big farms within the coun­try of Myanmar, the major paddy is monsoon paddy. The acres of land under cultivation of monsoon paddy were 15 million while the acres of land under cultivation of summer paddy were two million. In Ayeyawady Region, the acres of land put under cultivation of monsoon paddy were five million or so whereas the acres of land put under cultivation of monsoon paddy were three million or so in Bago Region, two million in Sagaing and one million in Yangon Region respectively. The acres of land put under cultivation of monsoon paddy in the said four re­gions accounted for 70 per cent of the cultivation of monsoon paddy across the country of Myanmar.


In 2020-2021, the acres of land put under cultivation of monsoon paddy were 15.01 million, and the paddy yield accounted for 1,053.73 million baskets. This year saw 1.66 million tonnes of rice and rice products being exported, earning US$578.94 million.


Around the 1930s in the pre-war period, the export of Myan­mar rice accounted for 3.5 million tonnes. However, the export of rice has been on the decline since then. Only after 70 years, the ex­port of rice has risen again, and in the 2017-2018 financial year, 3.6 million tonnes of rice could be exported. In the 2022-2023 fi­nancial year, the first half of the financial year witnessed 0.5 mil­lion tonnes of rice being exported and 0.36 million tonnes of broken rice being exported, bringing the total to 0.86 million tonnes. Rice was exported to more than 30 countries, with an increase of 0.20 million tonnes when compared to the same period of the previous financial year.


With the increase in the ex­port of rice and broken rice, the government is now boosting ag­ricultural production with greater momentum, and in such doing, the government held Myanmar Rice Conference — 2022 on 6 October 2022 at Myanmar International Convention Centre II in Nay Pyi Taw. The motto for the conference is, “To Boost National Economy, Direct Effort towards Growing of More Paddy.” The conference was honoured by the inauguration speech of State Administration Council Chairman Prime Minister Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.


Delivering the opening speech, the Senior General said, inter alia, that the rice conference was welcomed, that the rice and the rice products were on the pri­ority list which was made in the formulation of the National Ex­port Promotion Strategy and that under the rice export promotion strategy, production and export of quality rice are to be implemented in such a way that the natural environment will not be adversely affected and with the objective of rural area development and gen­eration of greater income.


The population of Myanmar is 55 million now, and those work­ing abroad are about 4.5 million. The rice consumption is 155 kilo­grammes (97 pyis) per capita per annum. The rice and paddy pro­duction exceeds the domestic con­sumption dramatically, it is said.


The per acre yield of Mon­soon paddy is about 75 baskets whereas that of summer paddy is about 90 baskets, it is estimated by the authorities concerned. If effort can be exerted to increase five baskets each for per acre yield of monsoon and summer paddy, the surplus can ensure higher self-sufficiency and greater ex­port. On the part of the state authorities, they will arrange for providing more inputs like ferti­lizers and pesticides in addition to ensuring higher availability of irrigation water.


To solve the problem of scar­city of workers, human labour will be replaced with machinery. When human workers are used in harvesting the monsoon paddy, they will naturally be faced with difficulty when there are big rain­falls. But when the machines are used, there will not arise such a problem. Farmers need not be worried about the harvested pad­dy getting wet in the rain.


The harvesting and win­nowing machines can be used when the sun shines. The use of these machines will cost a farm­er K90,000 or so per acre. The use of machines costs less when compared to the use of human harvesters. But the costs may vary from region to region.

The drier paddy fetches a higher price. To dry the wet paddy, the bricks that have been baked in the fire are put into the wet paddy. And when the wet paddy is milled, they are to be rid of the pathway with the use of human labour. Now, we can use the drier machines to dry the wet paddy.


The monsoon paddy is sold for K1 million or so per 100 bas­kets in October. Despite the pric­es of inputs being high, the farm­ers are enjoying greater benefits this year.


The export of broken rice accounts for 42 per cent in the first half of this financial year, and the price gap between the price of the new rough rice and that of the broken rice is quite narrow in October.


After the harvest of monsoon paddy, 0.85 million acres of land will be put under cultivation of summer paddy under the Con­tract Farming system, it is learnt. Contract Farming System is a new dimension in the cultivation of paddy.