Narinjara News

Mobile rice ‘purchase’ Drive Unit ?

Ramree Island, 24 February:  Since the target for the rice collection for the fiscal 2002-03 has not been fulfilled in Ramree Island in Rakhine State, in the western part of Burma, a “Mobile Rice Purchase Drive Unit” has been formed by the Burmese junta’s Ramree (Rambree) Township Council to step up this year’s rice collection, according to our correspondent.

Unlike in previous years the newly formed Mobile Units have been going round the village tracts including the rice collection depots at Doratha and Kung-zatt villages in the island.  Each of these mobile units has recruited six ‘rice collectors’ from the village tracts.  The units have been composed of members of the police department, village Peace and Development Council junta, and township administrative officials. 

The teams have recently conducted rice collection drives from door to door in the villages of Ramree Township including Ramm-theik-kri, Ramm-theik-shey, Ma-rwaik-chein, and Abo-brung village tracts.  Those who failed to meet the collection target set by the rice purchase drive units have been left with no other choice than buy the same rice at kyat 2,000 a tinn from the open market and sell to the Mobile Rice Units at kyat 350 a tinn, which price is set by the Burmese junta, according to a rice farmer in the area.

He also added that though the price of essentials has sharply gone up in recent days, the junta has turned a deaf ear to the appeal of the rice growers for higher price.  Instead many of the rice farmers who could not reap a normal harvest of rice due to crop failure because of the heavy rains and flooding last year had either been forced to fulfil the quota of rice or to face legal action including prison terms and confiscation of land and property. 

When asked an official in the Agricultural Department said that this year’s rice collection quota has been set at 300,000 tinns instead of 200,000 tinns last year for the island township, one hundred tinns of rice is equal to about 250 bushels.  The total collection of rice till 15th January has been recorded at 40% of the junta’s target.  On 18th January the State Police Commissioner, a Burmese Army official, visited Kyaukpru District including Ramree Island and directed the officials engaged in rice collection to collect the full quota target of rice.  He emphasized that rice is the main source of foreign currency of the regime, without which Burma would face a lot of foreign currency constraints essential for the development of the country.

Till January 15th only Thandoway Township out of seventeen townships of Rakhine State has been able to fulfil about 94% of the quota.  In Mrauk-u Township a total of 70% of the rice quota has been realized; last year a total of one million tinns of rice was realized from the township  the largest amount from any of the townships in the state, said an official in the agricultural department.  #