Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

The Failure of Myanmar's Agricultural Policies

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

The Failure of Myanmar's Agricultural Policies

Article excerpt

Peter G. Warr

Significant economic reform was reportedly a condition for the resumption of international assistance to Myanmar, suspended for several years, but the required reforms have not been forthcoming.1 Agriculture is central to Myanmar's poor economic performance and to the lack of reform. It represents 43 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) (Table 1), employs 70 per cent of the population, and accounts for at least that proportion of Myanmar's poor people. But the performance of the agricultural sector has been deteriorating and current policy directions seem unlikely to improve it. This article focuses on the problems of agriculture within the Myanmar economy and the reforms that are required for improved agricultural performance.

Agricultural growth has been declining since 1995 and yields have been static. There are two ways yields could be improved: by cultivating existing farming lands more intensively, or by opening new lands to cultivation. Elsewhere in Asia, the "green revolution" made the first of these approaches possible. It required that new agricultural technologies were available and that farmers had the economic incentives to apply them. In Myanmar, neither condition applies. New technologies have not been adapted to local conditions because domestic agricultural research and extension capabilities are almost non-existent. More important, the prices of agricultural commodities and the markets for the inputs required for agricultural expansion are suppressed to such an extent that farmers lack incentives to expand production. …

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