Exports of 5-percent broken rice have been weak because of Myanmar government’s feeble assistance to small, private rice millers, U Win Khaing Soe, chairman of Rice Millers’ Association of Lay Myat Hnar township of Ayeyarwaddy region, said.
He told Myanmar Business Today that private rice millers are in need of government aid to buy rice polishers and colour sorter machines, which are essential to produce high-grade, 5-percent broken rice and are expensive, but funds have been slim.
“During my period of chairmanship, there was no government support for us to go hi-tech,” he said. As the government prioritises rice export many small-sized rice millers have now threatened to suspend their operations due to a lack of support.
Broken rice is a grade of rice consisting of grains broken in the milling process – the lower the percentage of broken grains the higher price the rice can fetch in the market.
Most of the 5-percent broken (locally known as Tann Myint) rice produced in Myanmar are exported to Europe and Japan, while 25-percent broken rice (locally known as Ae Ma Hta) are exported to Africa. There are many varieties of rice produced in Myanmar, however, they usually don’t get high price in the global market as they are not polished during the milling process.
U Win Khaing Soe said some farmers have even been forced to stop operating their rice mills because of the falling rice prices.
“They are small farmers and they can’t operate the mills when the market is down. In our township, only 20 mills out of 90 are operational now.”
Ko Soe Khaing, a farmer from the township, said the recent electricity price hike has also hit the farmers hard in rural areas.
“Previously, milling cost for a basket of rice grains was about K100. But after the government increased the electricity price on April 1, the cost hiked to K150-K200. The farmers who want to mill their rice grains are now facing difficulties,” he said.
Most of the mills in Myanmar are old and mills having colour sorters and dryer machines are few in numbers. “In the whole Ayeyarwaddy region, there are only a few high-tech mills,” U Khaing Soe said.
Currently, there are a total of 2,000 regular mills in Myanmar that can produce between 15 and 100 tonnes of rice, but the number of high-tech mills, which can produce 100 to 400 tonnes, is less than 100.
However, a senior official from the Ministry of Commerce told Myanmar Business Today that the number of high-tech millers in Myanmar may be small but most of them only produce 25-percent broken rice.
Millers said the cost to produce 5-percent broken rice is too high, so some small-sized mills have suspended hi-tech operations.
“The number of Tann Myint mills is low but some companies are planning to build them,” said U Thaung Win, general secretary of Myanmar Rice Millers Association. Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corp (MAPCO) is currently carrying out a mill construction project in Nay Pyi Taw which is expected to be finished within one or two years, he said.
Last Year, MAPCO and Japan’s Mitsui Co formed a joint venture to export 5,000 tonnes of 5-percent broken rice from Myanmar to Japan. On May 23, the companies exported a second lot of 6,000 tonnes.
Following the lapse of Western sanctions, the demand for 5-percent broken rice from Myanmar has been on the up, but the high-tech factories can only be found in Yangon, Myaung Mya township in Ayeyarwaddy region and Paundte in Bago region.