Rice federation draws up emergency plans for imports

The Myanmar Rice Federation is drawing up contingency plans to import rice in response to widespread flooding, officials said.

Heavy rains and rising waters in 11 out of Myanmar’s 14 regions and states have raised fears of a shortage of the staple food.

The Myanmar Rice Federation had previously announced a temporary ban of exports until mid-September, and is now preparing other measures if rice stocks run too low.

Myanmar Rice Federation president U Chit Khaing said there are still buffet stocks of rice in hand, which will be replenished starting in October with the harvest.

“To stop an increase in the rice price, we have decided to halt exports and have begun selling rice bags directly to the flooded area,” he said at an August 6 press conference on the issue.

“If there are unexpectedly severe weather conditions in the coming months, we will arrange to import, so there will be no concerns with rice.”

Myanmar has consistently been a net exporter of rice, with volumes increasing markedly in recent years. Official statistics show Myanmar produces about 14 million tonnes of rice, of which 12 million is for local consumption.

Market uncertainty over the effect of the floods on rice production has been evident in local prices.

A bag of 25 percent broken rice now fetching K22,000 at some shops in Yangon and Mandalay, from K17,000 before.

However, the areas hardest-hit by the floods have seen significant price spikes, with some reporting prices of up to K100,000 per 108-pound bag in places such as Hakha, Sagaing Region.

The rice federation is opening wholesale counters in the affected areas in an effort to help lower prices, with plans for Hinthada township in Ayeyarwady Region, Nattalin township and Pyay in Bago Region, Monywa and Shwebo in Sagaing Region, Magwe in Magwe Region, and Mandalay, as well as at Yangon’s main commodity exchange centres.

It has also sent 40,000 bags to Sittwe in Rakhin State for sale.

Myanmar Rice Federation officials also said that those contravening the ban on exports will face action, possibly supported by the government.

“In the past, rice could be exported freely. But now that the country is suffering from natural disasters, we decided to control the situation, with 100 percent agreement from members,” said an official.

Federation vice president U Aung Than Oo said that more than 170,000 bags of rice will be collected by Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation for use as a buffer stock.

With about 16 million acres under cultivation, 1.5 million acres has been damaged due to the heavy rain, said Myanmar Rice Federation secretary general U Ye Min Aung.

“Though the area is flooded, we can’t say all is totally destroyed,” he said. “Right now, about 200,000 acres are damaged beyond recovery, but we will try to get higher yields from non-flooded lands and from coming crops.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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