The Ministry of Trade and Commerce plans to lift a temporary ban on Burma’s rice exports, which was imposed due to shortages and inflation during last month’s flood disaster across the country.
Ministry Permanent Secretariat Toe Aung Myint said the government was moving ahead with the measure following a proposal by the Myanmar Rice Federation. The ban on rice exports was originally set until 15 September.
“The ban was introduced due to the nationwide flood disaster. However, the government also wishes to maintain its strength in the export market, so we are weighing these factors and coordinating procedures with the concerned departments and organisations,” he said.
“More importantly, we do not want to disrupt our existing market, especially in Europe, and capitalise on the rising popularity of parboiled rice, which is actually in low demand domestically. We will prioritise the types of rice that are in low demand domestically, and then gradually lift the ban on each variety.”
The Burmese government imposed the ban on rice exports on 7 August as monsoonal floods devastated much of the country, including Burma’s major “rice bowl” regions of Sagaing and the Irrawaddy delta. Landslides destroyed many roads and bridges and made transportation impossible. A subsequent hike in the price of commodities sent the market price of a sack of rice in remote areas, such as Chin State, from around 20,000 kyat (US$16) to as much as 80,000 kyat.
The Myanmar Rice Federation set 15 September as the anticipated time that the ban could be lifted, due to expectations that harvested rice would reach markets by mid-September. According to local media, the government was also mulling the possibility of importing rice to make up for the shortfall.
The Ministry of Commerce, however, raised the possibility of the ban being extended to November, after it announced that some one million acres (about 4,000 square kilometres) of paddy fields, accounting for about 10-15 percent of the total rice fields in the country, were damaged by the floods. It added that Burma needs around 34.8 million tons of paddy rice for domestic consumption yearly.
Burma’s rice exports have been rising consistently for the past few years. The country sent abroad around 1.8 million tons of rice in 2014. The MRF said it expects a paddy output of around 14 million tons (around 8.96 million tons, milled) in 2015. The government has been targeting exports of around 2 million tons of rice this year.