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Suu Kyi calls for ‘free market’ in agriculture

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Aung San Suu Kyi says that she will work to establish a “free market” for farm produce and other changes in the interests of Burmese farmers.

Aung San Suu Kyi is shielded by an umbrella at Pyapon Township  on Friday, February 17, 2012, as she campaigns for NLD candidates. Photo: Mizzima
On a campaign tour in which she is establishing campaign positions and supporting NLD candidates, she toured Pyapon Township on Friday, on her second campaign visit to Irrawaddy Region. Supporters said 40,000 people turned out in Pyapon.

“Unnecessary restrictions must be lifted and all farmers who would like to sell their farm produce freely should know about these restrictions,” she said, adding that she would remove other regulations that keep farmers from exercising control over their produce. “We will work for this,” she said.

She said that if a genuine democratic system can be put in place, then many organizations and foreign countries are ready to provide assistance to help modernize the Burma’s agricultural sector and make it internationally competitive.

At a joint session of Parliament on February 10, Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation Myint Hlaing said that farmers would be allowed to grow the crops they want, and the government would help them to get more income by providing assistance in entering the international market for their farm products.

He also told Parliament that some village administrators have forced farmers to grow summer paddy that is incompatible with the local climate and some farmers have been hurt by that decision.

Meanwhile, Lower House Speaker Shwe Mahn told Parliament on February 7, “Forcing farmers to grow summer paddy and monsoon paddy by issuing orders and directives may cause losses in various sectors if these crops are not compatible with local climate and soil.”

Shwe Mahn said, “Nowadays farmers, livestock producers and producers of primary products are all facing incurring losses due to falling prices for their crops and products along with fishery producers.” The minister and Shwe Mann are both members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, the government-backed ruling party that controls the Parliament.
President Thein Sein has made reform of the agricultural sector one of the government’s targets as a way to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty.

In May 2011, a leading Burmese economist and presidential adviser, Dr. Myint, in a paper on reducing poverty, told high government officials that agricultural reforms have played a big role in rural development and in initiating economic progress in many economies, such as in Taiwan and South Korea.

“In Myanmar farmers do not have land ownership rights, but only land user’s rights. Thus, in considering land reform in Myanmar under present circumstances, the aim is to come up with measures to protect the farmers from losing their land use rights as it is happening in some neighbouring countries,” he said.

“Another issue is that the land tax rates have been kept fixed at their level in the colonial days at a few kyats per acre which add next to nothing to revenue, which should therefore be reviewed. Some people also say farmers with land use rights should have right to use land as collateral to get loans.”

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