YANGON (Xinhua): In 30 years of growing rice in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region, Nyo Win has had many difficult times. But, with costs rising every day following a poor harvest, its current woes resemble many of the biggest difficulties to date.
Fertilizer and diesel prices, the mainstays of rice cultivation, have never been so high in the region.
A father of four, Nyo told Xinhua that he has made virtually no money this year. In March, farmers were forced to leave their rice fields to rot, destroyed by a tropical storm, a phenomenon that has become increasingly common in the region since Cyclone Nargis hit the headlines in 2008.
Two years ago, before Covid-19, a 50 kg bag of fertilizer cost around 20,000 kyats ($11). The price is already over 60,000 kyats and the increases show no signs of slowing down.
“The situation is now very difficult for us. I don’t know how long it will last,” Nyo told Xinhua.
Farmer Tint Lwin is in the same situation. He had to cut his fertilizer use in half.
“My costs are constantly increasing. I hope that by reducing the use of fertilizer, my padi can still be competitive. For sure my next harvest will go down,” he said.
The government’s response is that farmers should make better use of locally produced organic fertilizers and spend less on imported chemicals.
The farmers themselves do not see this as a solution to their problems. The costs have already been incurred and what they need is to be paid more for their harvest, by any means possible.
Aung Thu, another farmer in his 30s, told Xinhua that the prices of all commodities were rising.
“A barrel of diesel that cost around 90,000 kyats two years ago is now worth almost 400,000 kyats,” he said.
“Farmers are really struggling and things are only getting worse.”
Around 70% of Myanmar’s population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture. In 2019-2020, agriculture provided 38% of the country’s exports.