Rice exports from Myanmar hit a record 46-year high following the recent easing of export-related restrictions.
Myanmar exported 1 million tonnes of rice and rice products in the first nine months (April-December) of the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to government data.
“In the past, the rice exports suffered, but we are seeing a vast improvement due to the easing of restrictions,” Commerce Minister U Win Myint told a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw. “It’s the largest volume of rice export in 46 years,” he said.
"It used to take at least a week to get a rice export license, but now it takes one day and it’s also available from Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and the border stations," U Myint said.
“We are planning to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China to export rice, maize, gems and other materials. Whatever we do will be done with transparency and will be publicly announced,” he added.
Myanmar was the world’s biggest rice exporter from 1960 to 1963, with shipments of 1.6 million to 1.7 million tonnes a year, until it was displaced by neighbouring Thailand, according to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.
Many experts blame this fall on Myanmar’s tough rice export policy and believe that if the government continues easing restrictions, Myanmar will join countries like India, Thailand and Vietnam among the top rice exporting countries.
“The government will continue to ease restrictions on Myanmar’s rice export policy to improve the industry,” U Myint said.
The key markets for Myanmar’s rice industry are China and Africa, as well as India, the Philippines and Singapore, Dr Soe Tun, spokesperson for Rice Enterprises Association, said in a statement.
Myanmar is also attracting big consumers such as Indonesia and Japan. In December Japan agreed to replace some of the expensive Thai rice imports with Myanmar rice, according to officials from the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF). Japan is expected to purchase 600 tonnes of rice from Myanmar annually. On January 9, Indonesia offered to buy 300,000 tonnes of rice from Myanmar, with more orders to follow, according to state-run media. From April-December of 2011-12 fiscal year, Myanmar exported only 2,125 tonnes of rice to Indonesia, government statistics show.