This page features a compilation and selection of Myanmar seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in the Union of Myanmar.
The news covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.
This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.
Vegetable relief in Mon State: August 21: the Mon Youth Education Group (MYEO) has distributed some 14,500 pounds of crops and vegetables in 26 places of the Mon State as part of covid relief efforts. The crops and vegetables included coffee, tomato and mustard leaves, which were valued at 3 million kyats. As a result of covid control measures, the price of medicine and foodstuffs have skyrocketed in July. Original story here.
Flood inundated monsoon crops as fund reinforces seeds: August 14: More than 70,000 acres out of 16.5 million acres of monsoon crops planted this rainy season were reportedly inundated by floods due to heavy rains and high tides since July. The government has advised farmers to replant crops with reserve saplings, as well as direct seeding and through the use of other sowing mechanisms. Some 68% of rural people in Myanmar rely on agriculture, which accounts to about a third of the GDP. Through a Covid-19 Economic Relief Plan (RERP), Ks14,911.33 million has been spent on production of seeds for 100,000 acres, Original news here.
Kayin farmland inundated: August 8: In Kyainseikgyi Township, Kayin State, continuous rains since July 20 has caused flooding and landslides, Nearly 2,000 acres of paddy fields were flooded and it has been difficult for farmers to replant. Original news here.
Seeds for covid, conflict relief in Rakhine State: August 5: The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations or FAO is utilizing financial support through the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF) to bolster agriculture and livelihood support to 1,200 landless and highly vulnerable farmers in Maungdaw and Buthiduang Townships of the Rakhine State. Addressing food security and livelihood needs of small-scale farmers and landless seasonal workers most affected by conflict- and COVID-19 induced hardships, the project aims to “ensure continued food production and support livelihoods through the provision of multipurpose cash transfers and agricultural inputs.” 3,088 people in 500 farming households have already received inputs, including paddy and vegetable seeds, as well as fertilizers. More details here.
Border veg and fruit trade falls off following border closure: Aug 2: China-Myanmar border trade suffered following the decision on July 8 by China to close all border trade gates, citing detection of Covid-19. The closure left thousands of drivers and traders in limbo, and has had knock-on effects for trade, causing trade to fall off and the prices of crops to drop. Trade was already suffering due to increased transport costs in recent months linked to disrupted logistics. More details here.
Economy, livelihoods suffer on multiple fronts: July 26: The ongoing political turmoil compounded by measures linked to rising COVID cases are having severe impacts on the economy, which was forecast by the World Bank to contract by 18% during the current fiscal year, which concludes at the end of September. The World Bank assessed that about one million jobs could be lost, while labor hours and wages would continue to be reduced as the number of people living in poverty would “double by the beginning of 2022, compared to 2019 levels. As of mid-July, the Myanmar kyat had depreciated by around 23 percent against the US dollar since late January, which combined with trade disruptions has led to rapid price increases for some imported products, including fuel. Farmers have been affected by lower wholesale prices for some crops, higher input prices, and limited access to credit.” On July 22, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that it is partnering with local communities and faith groups to help an estimated 200,000 people driven from their homes by fresh violence since February.
Farming prospects: According to a July 18 report, there has been an increase in demand for farming equipment, as Japanese agriculture machinery company, Kubota said it had no plans to leave Myanmar amid a sharp rise in demand. There is positive news for pulse farmers in Myanmar as considering that “India’s domestic production of Tur and Moong has fallen short …” which has prompted the Indian Government to allow pulses imports through to October 31. Discussing strengthening the cross border trade of pulses was the focus of a webinar, which according to a July 14 report, was co-hosted by the India Myanmar Chamber of Commerce with the India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA), and focused on tur, urad and moong scenarios in the two countries.
Displaced Myanmar natives join other Asian refugees in US inner city garden: July 7: Refugees from Myanmar, Nepal, China, and other Asian countries are finding resolve growing some of their native vegetables on three parcels off Eighth and Emily Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Early in July, some two dozen gardeners, nonprofit leaders and government officials celebrated the completion of $100,000 in improvements to the Growing Home Gardens, which was started a decade ago as a means “to improve the diets of refugees by providing nutritious, familiar produce, and to offer a place for neighbors to casually meet and make friends.” Crops grown include Asian varieties of eggplant, chili peppers, bitter melon, basil and long beans, “needed to make Ta K’Paw, a Karen dish that has historically kept people from starving in hard times.” See original story here.
Perishing crops dumped at China border: May 24: Farmers at the China-Myanmar border in Namkham Township have been dumping various types of crops stuck at the border following border closures since April, which have slowed, which have slowed, if not halted cross-border movements and trade. See original story here. The news follows another report that the Yunnan provincial government closed the border checkpoints at Manwon and Chinshweh in Muse due to strict Covid-19 containment measures, posing hardships for fruit growers and vegetable farmers who depend on cross-border trade, especially in and around the Shan state border economies of Namhkam, Muse and Chinshwehaw. According to another report, the Covid-19 scare has also greatly caused hardships for rice growers and traders who had depended on Myanmar-China trade, and have also been negatively affected by the political situation in Myanmar.
Farmers struggle with finances: May 21: Many farmers are finding great difficulty in paying back loans they took out for the 2020 growing season. Citing impacts from the Covid-19 situation, compounded by geopolitics, major crop markets have disrupted trade and the greater economy. Though authorities have extended repayment deadlines, farmers are struggling to secure new finances and motivation to keep up the cropping. Read full details in Irrawaddy news here. More on this trend is also covered in depth by BBC here.
Kachin State farmers take over ‘confiscated’ land: May 20: Kachin State militants and farmers are recapturing and redistributing lands, which was allegedly confiscated by the Yuzana Company in 2006. Last month, lands were seized after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked the company’s compound last month. According to one report, the Yuzana company which had ties to a former military regime had allegedly confiscated over 200,000 acres of cassava cropland in the Hukawng Valley in Hpakant and Tanai townships. See full report here. In other recent news in the Kachin State, thousands of people have reportedly fled their homes and farms in the southern part of the state due to heavy fighting between the Myanmar army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Report here.
Pulse farmers look to cash in on lifted quotas: May 18: In light of recent news that India has abolished quota imports for pulses, pulse prices are on the rise in Myanmar’s domestic market. According to the vice-chairman of the Mandalay Commodity Exchange, quoted in a news article, shipments of pulses and green peas would be allowed to ship to India by October 31. Previously, only licensed exporters were allowed to export pulses to India, and also limiting movements were strict quotas implemented since 2017; however, thanks to growing demand, India has started to lax its regulations which has been positively received in Myanmar, where cross-border trade has been slowing with China.
Magway farmers' crops, animals going thirsty: May 2: Cropland in central Myanmar is suffering from a shortage of drinking water and reduced rainfall, especially in the Magway Region, where wells and ponds have been drying up. Crops there depend mainly on natural rainfall and the delayed monsoons have caused hardship for a great number of peanut farmers in particular. See news here.
Paddy, lentil prices and demand affected: January 2021:
Farmers in Minbu (Saku) Township, Magway Region, say that crop prices are falling continuously linked to Covid impacts on the movement of goods. Aside from affected paddy prices, demand for lentils in China has also dropped concurrently with prices. Read more in the Myanmar Times here.
Water hyacinth, sunflower seed research: January 2021:
According to the Department of Agricultural Research, research is underway to produce Early Generation Seed (EGS) for the parent line (male line) of Yezin hybrid water hyacinth. The Department of Agricultural Research, Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Researchers are also working on the production of Early Generation Seed (EGS) in the production of hybrid sunflower seeds, with the aim of ensuring that the quality of the hybrid sunflower cultivars can continue to grow without compromising on quality. More details here in the Voice Myanmar.
New rice seed trading app launched: January 20201:
The Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF) on January 8 launched a new Rice Portal Mobile Application, which enables farmers and entrepreneurs to connect with each other as part of efforts to use technology an to support the development of Myanmar's rice sector. Ye Min Aung, chairman of the Myanmar Rice Federation, said the portal was a platform designed for seed sellers and buyers to access information on trade issues. The application is jointly developed by the Myanmar Rice Federation and Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and is only available for seed trading. Later, it is planned to add rice (grain), machinery and equipment. See news in Myanmar here. Also, see this earlier coverage of the app in an article published in December, 2020, as well as this story here.
USAID report touches quality assurance, seed sector improvement: December 2020:
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 's Feed the Future Myanmar Agriculture and Food System Development Project has recently published a report exploring ways to develop value-added livestock and agricultural products. Among other things, the report included recommendations to realize opportunities to improve seed and quality assurance systems. More details in Burmese here.
Watermelon prices double: December 2020:
Reportedly as a result of the impacts from Covid-19 and border movement restrictions between China and Myanmar since the beginning of 2020, watermelon prices in Myanmar have doubled. In ‘normal years’, watermelon is cultivated on some 60,000 acres on the Burmese side of the border annually; however, the acreage this year has reduced to half that. With less watermelons being exported across the border to China, the prices have surged. More details in Burmese here.
New markets for Burmese watermelons: December 2020:
For the past 30 years, Burmese watermelons have relied solely on the Chinese market, but now new markets are opening up for Burmese seedless varieties, namely in the UAE, the United States, United Kingdom, Qatar and Singapore. Moreover, Myanmar will also export more mangoes and pineapples, as reported in Burmese here.
Expanding coffee plantations in Pyinmana: December 2020:
Coffee cultivation is being expanded in the mountainous area east of Nay Pyi Tawas part of a community-based tourism development project. The Department of Agriculture is preparing seeds of suitable varieties to be planted in mountainous area in the eastern part of Pyinmana.More details here.
Drought affects peanut crop in Ayeyarwady region: October 2020:
Peanut farmers in the Ayeyarwady region have been affected by low rainfall this year and the lack of nutrient supply from peanut leaves due to the drought, which has reduced peanut yields and reduced yields by about half. Affected areas include Nwathogyi, Myingyan, Taungtha, Ngan Zun, Nyaung Oo Rainfall in Chauk and other areas. The lack of rainfall has reportedly increased the number of pests and crop damage. Read more in Burmese here.
Concerns about maize inflows, outflows: September 2020:
Negotiations were reportedly held between maize farmers and trade officials regarding the inflows and outflows of maize, which had been allowed to be exported to China and Thailand, creating concerns for domestic supply. Some traders and livestock farmers wanted to import, but a corn farmers' group was opposed to this based on fear that the domestic market would be flooded with produce and negatively affect prices. More details here.
Food exports jump this year despite, in light of pandemic
In the current fiscal year, Myanmar export revenue has increased by about US$2 billion, despite and perhaps in light of the COVID-19, which has caused disruptions to global trade since January. According to the Myanmar Times, citing the the Ministry of Commerce, Myanmar’s border trade with Bangladesh, India, Thailand and China has increased, with trade via maritime routes amounting to US$30 billion, about US$1.9 billion more than the same period last year. Demand for staple crops such as rice and corn, has been on the rise in new markets while corn exports rose by nearly 50% year-on-year, to about 2.5 million tonnes compared to 1.5 million tonnes last year. More than three-fifths of this went to Thailand via the Tachileik and Myawaddy border towns, while demand from other countries like Vietnam and the Philippines has also jumped. Read full article here.
Cooperatives in different regions bridging supply and demand
Agriculture cooperatives across Myanmar are are working together to assist vegetable farmers in moving their produce to market. According to this article in the Myanmar Times, Cooperatives in different regions of the country are coordinating marketing logistics to match supply and demand to minimise spoilage and losses. One example given was regarding the the Shan State Union Cooperative Syndicates Ltd who bought and marketed cabbages from Kalaw, and worked with other cooperatives to sell the produce in Yangon, Sagaing, Bago and Ayeyarwady regions. Another example was cooperatives in the Magwe Region, which is a major onion producer, who moved produce through cooperatives in Kachin State and Tanintharyi Region, where there is a short supply of onion production.
Report pinpoints Covid challenges, opportunities for seed sector in Ayeyarwady Delta.
A rapid market assessment report has identified various key issues in the seed sector for Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta, providing a number of valuable recommendations during COVID 19 and beyond. Funded by LIFT, Mercy Corps (MC) and Welthungerhilfe (WHH), in collaboration with Village Link (VL), the report was conducted from late April to early May 2020. According to the Executive Summary, the objective of the RMA was to “better understand the current and potential impacts of COVID-19 (COVID) on rural
smallholder farmers and the broader food system, with a specific focus on the rice and pulses value chains. 661 respondents were interviewed in total across 26 townships in the Delta. The survey targeted key actors involved in the agricultural value chain, from smallholders and the landless to seed producers, input suppliers, rice millers,
other market actors and government officials. 428 respondents were surveyed through Village Link’s ‘Htwet Toe’ online application, with the remainder interviewed either via phone or online surveys following physical distancing guidelines, and circumventing logistical challenges due to travel restrictions. Download the report here.
Paddy seed producers get support visit from Minister of Agriculture
(Translated) Myanmar’s Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Aung Thu on August 15 visited paddy fields in Kaum and Kungjungon districts of the Yangon region to provide support in the form of funds and staff for farmers, as part of pandemic relief efforts for the benefit seed producers. More details here.
U Ye Myint: ‘the face of Myanmar coffee’
An interesting article documents the story of Mandalay Coffee Group’s U Ye Myint, who has built a coffee kingdom in Pyin Oo Lwin, a hill town about an hour’s drive from Mandalay. What started off with 200 acres of land in 1989 has today grown to be the Southeast Asian country’s largest high-end coffee bean exporter. Local demand has dropped since COVID-19 forced businesses and restaurants to close in April, but sales abroad have not been greatly affected… Read full story on Myanmar Times here.
400,000 acres to be ‘harnessed’ for rice seed, other crops
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MoALI) has announced agriculture relief plans. Myanmar Times reports on the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) which includes the “harnessing” of 400,000 acres of farmland, which includes a joint venture with the Myanmar Rice Federation to produce seeds on half the land, with the other half to be used for harvesting of other crops. The news was reported in a story about a survey of the livestock industry which has suffered in recent months.
WUR assesses Myanmar seed sector challenges
Myanmar was among four developing countries whose seed sectors were assessed by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and collaborating partners as part of efforts to “identify priority steps for enhancing food systems’ resilience in low and middle income countries” and “to identify current challenges and urgent action in Myanmar’s seed sector, based on surveys and focus group discussions with various stakeholders.” The full assessment can be found here. The Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation also conducted the seed sector assessments for Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia.
Myanmar ‘has enough food’
The President Spokesman’s office has offered assurance as the passage of goods across the China-Myanmar border had stopped and reports the India-Myanmar border had also been closed due to fears of the spread of the Coronavirus.
Seed imports surge by 45x in 10 years
The Myanmar Times has quoted Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, U Aung Thu as noting that the value of seed imports rose from $1 million 2009 to $45mn in 2019. He said most of the seeds came from Asean countries (Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines) while the government wants to curb the dependence on imported seed while encouraging local seed production for both domestic and export markets.
Chinese investors express interest in Myanmar marijuana potential
According to an article by Frontier Myanmar, Chinese companies have expressed interest in Myanmar’s potential cannabis industry, specifically for the cultivation of non-psychoactive cultivars of the species. The article also addresses various recent developments, challenges of legislation, and reform that would be needed to ensure the country’s cannabis industry to bud. In related news, on the topic of Myanmar cannabis investment challenges, this long-form journalistic piece, also published in February highlights the plight of one American investor, who despite possessing a permit issued by Mandalay’s chief minister to cultivate non-psychoactive cannabis on a farm in Mandalay, had last year been detained and imprisoned after the farm he had invested in was raided by authorities, who cited Myanmar’s 1993 Narcotics law.
DECEMBER 2019 & JANUARY 2020
Myanmar Seed Fair 2020
Myanmar government and private seed industry reps organized the 2020 Seed Fair from January 28 to 30 at the Agricultural Science Training Center in Pyinmana, Nay Pyi Taw. The exhibition showcased some 150 varietiesin addition to farming and agricultural equipment. According to promotional content from the government, the purpose of the fair was to emphasize the value of quality seeds for ensuring healthy, pest-resistant, climate-resilient and productive crops, while ensuring farmers have access to such quality seeds through strong partnership between the public and private sectors.
Snakes employed to save rice crops from rat infestation
The Irrawaddy reports that government officials have released more than 200 non-venomous snakes in villages in Myanmar’s Shan State in a biological control effort to contain a rat-infestation. According to the article, many rice farmers’ crops were destroyed by the infestation before rodent experts with the Forestry Department employed the idea to deploy the snakes, which had been seized from smugglers.