Bean exports, in particular, have done well in fiscal 2019-20, with over 1.6 million tonnes sold to international buyers despite COVID-19, generating close to US$1.2 billion in revenue.

“As part of the National Export Strategy, crops like beans have been placed on the priority list,” U Than Myint said at the annual meeting of the Myanmar Digital Economy Association.

Locally produced beans and pulses were exported to some 60 countries in fiscal 2019-20, including India, China, Singapore, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, the UAE, Malaysia and Japan.

To further improve exports, the government will work closely with farmers to produce a variety of high-quality pulses and beans and reduce costs of transportation and production. At the same time, it will also raise efforts to improve domestic consumption and produce value-added products for the benefit of local farmers, U Than Myint said.

Bean production accounts for over a third of the country’s agricultural produce and is cultivated across 20pc of the total plantation area. Three quarters of the beans grown locally consist of mung beans, green gram and pigeon peas.

Rice, corn demand

Demand for Myanmar grown rice has also risen, with Bangladesh recently inking an agreement to purchase 100,000 tonnes of rice, which is a relatively large amount for the beginning of the fiscal year, according to the Myanmar Rice & Paddy Traders Association.

“We’ve got an agreement between both governments to export rice via maritime route for about three months starting from March until May,” said U Aung Myint, secretary of the association.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has also offered to buy about 15,000 tonnes of Myanmar rice and the Philippines has also made enquiries.

This is in addition to demand from China, which is the biggest importer of Myanmar rice.

Myanmar will also commence corn exports to Thailand on a duty-free basis between February 1 and August 31 this year.

As close to 80 percent of locally produced corn is exported to Thailand, an agreement for this special arrangement was inked in 2018 and currently still stands.Corn prices have spiked since January as traders anticipate sales from Thailand.

U Min Khine, chair of the Myanmar Corn Industrial Association, said the country is expected to export up to 1.6 million tonnes of Myanmar corn this year.

The country exported 2.2 million tonnes of corn worth US$360 million in the fiscal 2019-20 and 1.4 million tonnes worth US$260 million in fiscal 2018-19, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Chilli shortage

However, the country recently turned down requests to export its chilli to China due to COVID-19, according to Daw Ohmar Kyaw, chair of the Myanmar Chili Market and Technology Development Association.

The Nanning Economic Attaché Office recently contacted Myanmar authorities to purchase several containers of locally-produced chilli, to be shipped to Qinzhou Port, but was turned down due to the lack of volume available.

“Even before the pandemic, there was overseas demand for local chilli. But only some farmers grow chili and so, there was not enough harvest to meet demand. We also need to ensure we have the variety they want as there are many types of chilli,” Daw Ohmar Kyaw said.

She added that preparations are now being made to gradually raise chilli production locally for exports in the near future.

Myanmar chilli is usually exported to China and Thailand via the borders and to Malaysia via maritime route. So far, production has been insufficient to meet additional demand. – Translated

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