Narinjara News

Rice Purchase Teams formed despite hunger in western

By Tun Naing

Sittwe, 3 October: 
Despite the Burmese junta’s declaration of a new rice purchase policy last April for liberalisation of rice trade, steps have been taken across Rakhine State in western Burma

Local township and village level junta officials across the state have been forming a five-member rice purchase committee in each of the village tracts of the provincial state.  The rice growers have been directed to sell rice only to the five-member committees besides the transportation of rice from one village to another has also been prohibited.

A rice farmer at Ponnagyun Township said, “If the junta wants to privatise the sale of rice, why have its officials been directed to form these rice purchase groups? And why, after all, the junta have barred us from selling rice in the open market?”

Widespread hunger has forced the ruling Burmese junta to allow transportation of thousands of tonnes of rice daily into the townships in Rakhine State

The junta also plans to buy rice beginning this November for the consumption of civil servants and state employees, U Sein Win Hlaing, the general secretary of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently said to the press in Rangoon.

The decision to liberalise rice sales prompted the formation of a Rice Procurement Supervisory Central Committee.  The committee was formed comprising representatives of the federation, the Myanmar Rice Merchants’ Association, and the Myanmar Rice Millers’ Association.  U Sein Win Hlaing also said, “We are organising the traders in rice-growing areas and establishing rice procurement supervisory committees at township, district, and divisional or state level.”  He also added, “The committee’s role is to bring together the government and paddy traders to arrange the purchases.”

The rice procurement supervisory committee will be responsible for all steps necessary till transporting rice to the state warehouses.  The traders will then be paid by bank cheques.  The traders, he said, will also export rice under the guidance of the committee besides selling rice to the state.

Burma exported about one million tonnes of rice during the last fiscal year till March.  Hlaing said the federation expected to export at least half a million tonne of rice this year.

Meanwhile a number of academics in Sittwe expressed their view that the junta’s export of rice disregarding the local demand is to blame for the present rice crisis.

A rice trader said, “The import of large quantities of rice to meet the demand at Rakhine State may also backfire.  It can be a trick to deliberately bring down the price of rice during the present harvest season.  Buy rice from Rakhine State at low price during harvest to profiteer when the commodity is scarce in the off-season.  Take the case of onions.  It is banned from transportation to Rakhine now when the price is up, while it will be bought at just a fraction of the present price and shipped to Rangoon.”  #