Farmers suffer losses after forced crop growing

Dec 3, 2007 (DVB), Farmers in Mandalay and Magwe divisions have been faced with rising debts and failed harvests after local authorities forced them to grow particular crops.

In Ma Hlaing township in Mandalay division, township chairman U Myo Thand ordered farmers in his territory to grow rice paddy on fields that are only suitable for growing cotton, corn and beans.

He said those who disobeyed the orders would be arrested and imprisoned.

The farmers did grow paddy rice as he ordered, but the crop failed because the land was unsuitable.

This has left the farmers with no income from their crop this yearm forcing some to sell up farmland and cattle to repay their debts.

The chairman has continued tell farmers to clear other land to make paddy fields and those who have refused or failed to clear their lands within the deadline he gave them have been arrested.

One farmer from Habyebin village, U Chit Yan, was among those detained for not complying with the chairman's orders.

"On 29 July, the township chairman ordered me to clear the banana plantations my family has owned for generations, and he gave me five days to clear it," the farmer said.

"But I couldn't do it on time as there was some heavy rain, and then he held me in detention for 24 hours."

A few days later Chit Yan was arrested again for not growing what the township chairman had asked, and that time he spent seven days in detention.

The township chairman was repeatedly unavailable for comment.

Farmers in villages around Taung Twin Gyi township, Magwe division, were forced by authorities to grow sugar cane to sell to the government.

Local officials told them that those who did not grow the crop would face punishment.

But now that the time has come to harvest the crops, the authorities have said that they will no longer be buying the sugar cane due to the shortage of fuel at the number 9 sugar factory at Aung Lan township in Magwe division.

After hearing that they would not be able to sell their sugar cane to the government, the villagers requested permission to set up home factories to make Burmese traditional sweets instead, but permission was denied by the authorities.

Township farmers have also suffered under a government scheme to buy fertilizer.

The farmers were offered the fertilizer at the start of the season at 6,000 kyat, which they could use then but would not have to pay for until after the harvest.

But now officials have said they must pay 15,000 kyat for the fertilizer, despite the lack of income the farmers have received from their sugar cane crops.

Authorities have blamed the increase in price on the cost of transporting the fertilizer.

Reporting by Aye Nai and Khin Maung So Min

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