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Policies leading to food insecurity in Burma

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Title: The politics of the emerging agro-industrial complex in Asia’s ‘final frontier’ - The war on food sovereignty in Burma
Date of publication: 03 September 2013
Description/subject: "Burma's dramatic turn-around from 'axis of evil' to western darling in the past year has been imagined as Asia's 'final frontier' for global finance institutions, markets and capital. Burma's agrarian landscape is home to three-fourths of the country's total population which is now being constructed as a potential prime investment sink for domestic and international agribusiness. The Global North's development aid industry and IFIs operating in Burma has consequently repositioned itself to proactively shape a pro-business legal environment to decrease political and economic risks to enable global finance capital to more securely enter Burma's markets, especially in agribusiness. But global capitalisms are made in localized places - places that make and are made from embedded social relations. This paper uncovers how regional political histories that are defined by very particular racial and geographical undertones give shape to Burma's emerging agro-industrial complex. The country's still smoldering ethnic civil war and fragile untested liberal democracy is additionally being overlain with an emerging war on food sovereignty. A discursive and material struggle over land is taking shape to convert subsistence agricultural landscapes and localized food production into modern, mechanized industrial agro-food regimes. This second agrarian transformation is being fought over between a growing alliance among the western development aid and IFI industries, global finance capital, and a solidifying Burmese military-private capitalist class against smallholder farmers who work and live on the country's now most valuable asset - land. Grassroots resistances increasingly confront the elite capitalist class' attempts to corporatize food production through the state's rule of law and police force. Farmers, meanwhile, are actively developing their own shared vision of food sovereignty and pro-poor land reform that desires greater attention.... Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue, 14 - 15 September, New Haven.
Author/creator: Kevin Woods
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI)
Format/size: pdf (593K)
Date of entry/update: 04 September 2013

Title: The role of coercive measures in forced migration/internal displacement in Burma/Myanmar
Date of publication: 17 March 2008
Description/subject: Conclusion: "Most relevant reports and surveys I have been able to access state essentially that people from all parts of Burma leave home either in obedience to a direct relocation order from the military or civil authorities or as a result of a process whereby coercive measures imposed by the authorities play a major role in forcing down household incomes to the point where the family cannot survive. At this point, leaving home may seem to be the only option. These factors, which include direct forced relocation, forced labour, extortion and land confiscation, operate in, are affected by and exacerbate a situation of widespread poverty, rising inflation and declining real incomes. In other words, people leave home due to a combination of coercive and economic factors. One has to consider the whole process leading to displacement rather than a single, immediate cause. Where coercive measures, as described in this article, are involved, the resulting population movement falls under the Guiding Principles even if the situation that actually triggers movement, frequently food insecurity, may also be described in economic terms."
Author/creator: Andrew Bosson
Language: English
Source/publisher: Andrew Bosson
Format/size: pdf (47K)
Date of entry/update: 17 March 2008

Title: Forced migration/internal displacement in Burma - with an emphasis on government-controlled areas
Date of publication: May 2007
Description/subject: This report is a preliminary exploration of forced migration/internal displacement in Burma/Myanmar in two main areas. The first is the status in terms of international standards, specifically those embodied in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, of the people who leave home not because of conflict or relocation orders, but as a result of a range of coercive measures which drive down incomes to the point that the household economy collapses and people have no choice but to leave home. Some analysts describe this form of population movement as "economic migration" since it has an economic dimension. The present report, however, looks at the coercive nature of the pressures which contribute to the collapse of the household economy and argues that their compulsory and irresistible nature brings this kind of population movement squarely into the field of forced migration, even though the immediate cause of leaving home may also be described in economic terms... The second area is geographic. The report looks at those parts of Burma not covered by the IDP Surveys of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, which concentrate on the conflict and post-conflict areas of Eastern Burma. It hardly touches on conflict-induced displacement since most parts of Burma covered in these pages, including the major cities, are government-controlled, and there is little overt military conflict in these States and Divisions. Within these parts of the country, the report looks at the coercive measures referred to above. It also carries reports of direct relocation by government agents through which whole rural and urban communities are removed from their homes and either ordered to go to specific places, or else left to their own devices. The report annexes contain more than 500 pages of documentation on forced displacement and causes of displacement in Arakan, Chin, Kachin and Eastern and Northern Shan States as well as Irrawaddy, Magwe, Mandalay, West Pegu, Rangoon and Sagaing Divisions. It also has a section on displacement within urban and peri-urban areas.
Author/creator: Andrew Bosson
Language: English
Source/publisher: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)
Format/size: pdf (717K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004CE90B/(httpDocuments)/D057F0FCA432F4B5C12572D7002B147B/$file/Burma_report_mai07.pdf
Date of entry/update: 15 May 2007

Title: Deserted Fields: The destruction of agriculture in Mong Nai Township, Shan State
Date of publication: January 2006
Description/subject: Summary: "Wrong-headed agricultural and development policies, counter-insurgency activities, as well as corruption and cronyism by the Burmese military regime, have all caused a dramatic decrease in rice production and food security in southern Shan State over the past ten years. The township of Mong Nai provides a good example of how food security, commonly defined as the physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all times, has been put in a precarious condition despite the regime’s claims that it is achieving self-sufficiency and agricultural development. In the past Mong Nai was well known for its fertile land and abundant production of quality rice. Even though people could not make much income from their crops, they had enough to survive. Since 1994, however, a series of national policies and initiatives have led to a decline in rice production, the abandonment of fertile fields, and the exodus of thousands of residents to neighbouring Thailand. In order to implement its national rice procurement policy, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) set up a paddy (unmilled rice) buying center in the town of Mong Nai in 1994. Farmers were forced to sell rice to the regime at depressed prices (about one quarter of the normal market price) based on the acreage of land they customarily tended and regardless of actual crop yields. This center, and how its quota system was implemented, disrupted farmers’ access to their own rice harvests and drove many into debt. The SPDC proudly announced the abolishment of this system and the opening of a market-oriented economy in 2003. However, new practices have been able to ensure that the military maintains its own stores of rice at the expense of local populations. agriculture, and led to decreased rice production and food security in the township. The amount of rice fields under cultivation has decreased by approximately 56% since 1994 while the population has decreased by approximately 30%. The drastic decrease in upland agriculture has practically wiped out the cultivation of sesame and the subsequent production of sesame oil in the township, while a wide variety of beans, fruits, and other vegetables are also not cultivated. Restrictions on trade and travel have made foodstuffs harder to get and more expensive. Contrary to the regime’s claims, Burma is not on the road to self-sufficiency and food security."... Table of Contents: Summary.2; Background 4; Food and Agriculture Situation Before 1994 5; Rice Procurement Policy/the Quota System 6; Forced Relocation 7; Map 1: Rice Cultivation and Villages in 1994 8; Map 2: Rice Culitvation, Remaining Villages and Confiscated Lands in 2005 9; Land Confiscation 10; Restricted Movement 12; Trading Restrictions 13; Forced Planting of Summer Paddy 13; Conclusion: The Situation Today 15... Appendix 1: Decrease in Rice Production in Mong Nai Township 1994-2005 16.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Shan Relief and Development Committee (SRDC)
Format/size: pdf (204K)
Date of entry/update: 18 January 2006

Title: Pa'an District: Food Security in Crisis for Civilians in Rural Areas
Date of publication: 30 March 2005
Description/subject: Released on March 30, 2005... This bulletin examines the factors causing many villagers in Pa'an district to say that they now face a deepening food and money shortage crisis which is threatening their health and survival. Based on villagers' testimony, the main factors appear to be recurring forced labour for both SPDC and DKBA authorities, made worse in some areas by orders for farmers to double-crop on their land and the encroachment of new SPDC military bases on villages and farmland.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG #2005-B3)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 23 May 2005

Title: Rich Periphery, Poor Center: Myanmar's Rural Economy
Date of publication: March 2004
Description/subject: Abstract: "This paper looks at the case of Myanmar in order to investigate the behavior and welfare of rural households in an economy under transition from a planned to a market system. Myanmar's case is particularly interesting because of the country's unique attempt to preserve a policy of intervention in land transactions and marketing institutions. A sample household survey that we conducted in 2001, covering more than 500 households in eight villages with diverse agro-ecological environments, revealed two paradoxes. First, income levels are higher in villages far from the center than in villages located in regions under the tight control of the central authorities. Second, farmers and villages that emphasize a paddy-based, irrigated cropping system have lower farming incomes than those that do not. The reason for these paradoxes are the distortions created by agricultural policies that restrict land use and the marketing of agricultural produce. Because of these distortions, the transition to a market economy in Myanmar since the late 1980s is only a partial one. The partial transition, which initially led to an increase in output and income from agriculture, revealed its limit in the survey period."...There are 2 versions of this paper. The one placed as the main URL, which also has a later publication date, seems to be longer, though it is about 30K smaller.
Author/creator: Ikuko Okamoto, Kyosuke Kurita, Takashi Kurosaki and Koichi Fujita
Language: English
Source/publisher: IDE ( Institute of Developing Economies) Discussion Paper No. 23
Format/size: pdf (213K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.econ.yale.edu/conference/neudc03/papers/1d-kurosaki.pdf
Date of entry/update: 05 December 2003

Date of publication: 2004
Description/subject: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: The Government of Myanmar has made it clear that it recognises the crucial importance of a dynamic, liberalised agricultural sector to the country, describing it as the ‘base’ for national economic growth and calling for the evolution of a ‘market-oriented economic system’ as a key economic objective, while the first policy declaration of the MOAI is ‘to allow freedom of choice in agricultural production’. Yet more than a decade after the commencement of the transition from the previous Socialist regime, many aspects of the agricultural and rural economy remain substantially under Government control or influence, including the choice of crops to be planted, priorities for agricultural research and extension, access to inputs, processing and international trade... The enormous potentials inherent in the agricultural and rural economy of Myanmar outlined in this document will continue to go unrealised unless the liberalisation process started in the late 1980s is encouraged to fully evolve. Although moves such as the liberalisation of rice marketing in 2003 should be welcomed, their impact is often reduced by a subsequent tightening of state controls – as indeed has been the case with the reintroduction of the prohibition on private sector exports of rice just a few months later. This study has identified a number of important technical issues that need to be addressed in order to facilitate the growth of the sector1, however, it must be understood that the impact of investment in the rural sector will be greatly lessened in the absence of continued liberalisation measures... The three policy areas which are exerting the greatest influence on sector development at this time are those relating to rural financial services, international trade and directed production. The liberalisation of rural finances is critical because state-controlled structures (e.g. MADB) are currently unable to provide farmers and other rural entrepreneurs with access to the financing they need to increase productivity. This lack of financing reduces the use of inputs, limits the adoption of new technologies, constrains the development of unutilised land and encourages low cost/low output production. Furthermore, by forcing rural populations to use much higher cost credit from informal sources it is, without doubt, a major factor in increasing rural indebtedness and poverty. Limitations on access to international markets are almost equally important, as they prevent the sector from identifying, and responding to, those opportunities which will provide the greatest returns, both for their families and for the country as a whole. The result has been to distort production patterns towards perceived national priorities, at the expense of economic growth. Finally, the continued use of directed production for perceived strategic crops limits the ability of the agricultural sector to seek out and adopt the most productive and profitable activities, effectively preventing its evolution in a rapidly changing world... The temptation to solve economic problems through direct intervention is an age old one, and it is not surprising that the Government sees intervention as an effective instrument for achieving short-term goals, such as maintaining low consumer prices, guaranteeing supplies, or reducing expenditure of scarce foreign currency – even when this is in conflict with its own broader national policies. Nevertheless, action in one area has inevitable consequences elsewhere, many of which may not be anticipated. As many countries have discovered, one intervention often requires another intervention to resolve an unintended side-effect. Consequently, such intervention should be used very sparingly, if at all, and alternative approaches, which do not conflict with basic national policies should be sought instead... With ASEAN integration now a likely prospect in the medium term, growing pressures from international globalisation, and strong indications of increasing poverty in rural areas, a continuation of the partial liberalization regime effectively in place at the moment will prove difficult to maintain and is likely to further constrain economic growth and development. Myanmar may ultimately have to choose between broad choices: To return to the socialist model of the 1970s and 1980s, and in so doing effectively disconnect the country from the international and regional economic system; or to push forward with existing national policies of economic liberalisation and realize the great potential of Myanmar as an agricultural producer and exporter. While the second choice will bring with it many challenges, few doubt that the agricultural sector in Myanmar can be a competitive force in the world economy, and the growth that such competitiveness would bring could both reduce rural poverty and catalyse the development of the rest of the economy. 14.95 Finally, it is worth noting that experience across a broad spectrum of developing countries has shown that food security is most prevalent when national policies influencing the productive sectors of the economy have a marked pro-poor orientation. In a predominantly rural economy such as that of Myanmar, agricultural growth provides the most opportunities for pro-poor development, as long as the poor are central to the process. This requires not only access to appropriate technical, financial and physical resources for production, as well as associated services such as health, sanitation, water supply and education, but also an economic and policy environment which enables rural households to respond to market demand and benefit from their contribution to national growth.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Format/size: pdf (2.1MB)
Date of entry/update: 27 November 2007

Title: Current Economic Conditions in Myanmar and Options for Sustainable Growth
Date of publication: May 2003
Description/subject: Abstract: In this paper, an extensive report on the economy of Myanmar prepared in 1998 is supplemented by more recent reports as of fall 2002 (included as appendices). The economy of Myanmar is one of the poorest in South East Asia. Despite relatively rapidly growth during the 1990’s, per capita income by 1998 was little higher than in the middle 1980s. Inflation rates are high, the currency value has fallen sharply, and Myanmar has one of the world’s lowest rates relative to income of government revenue and non-military spending. Agriculture in Myanmar has an unusually high share (59%) of GDP. Despite a high reported growth rate, yields for most food crops have remained stagnant or dropped. Poor price incentives and credit systems constrain agricultural production. As of 1998, farm wages are barely enough to provide food, with nothing left over for clothing, school fees, supplies, or medicine. Environmental problems including deteriorating water supply and diminishing common property resources further impact the poor. Industry suffers from limited credit, fluctuating power supplies, inflation and exchange rate instability. A possible bright spot is offshore gas potential. However, much of the expected revenue from offshore gas development may already have been pledged as collateral for expenditure prior to 1998, and thus will go primarily to service debt. Recent evidence summarized in a paper by Debbie Aung Din Taylor (Appendix 3) indicates that most people in rural areas are much worse off today than a decade ago. Decline in agricultural production is aggravated by severe degradation of the natural resource base. River catchment areas are denuded of forest cover, leading to more frequent and severe flooding. Fish stocks and water supplies are diminishing. These trends are pervasive and reaching a critical level. Assistance is urgently needed to provide the rural poor. Sustained international attention is needed to reverse the current rapid decline of economy and environment.
Author/creator: David Dapice
Language: English
Source/publisher: Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University
Format/size: pdf (83,7K)
Date of entry/update: 21 September 2004

Title: Signs of Distress: Observations on agriculture, poverty and the environment in Myanmar
Date of publication: 22 November 2002
Description/subject: "...Why does food production in Myanmar appear to be in trouble? Although quantitative information is sparse, there is sufficient evidence to suggest three main reasons for declining agricultural production. These three reasons are: inadequate credit, unstable and restrictive market policies and mandatory cropping. Together, these three conditions act as powerful disincentives to national production..."
Author/creator: Debbie Aung Din Taylor
Language: English
Source/publisher: School of Advanced International Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C.
Format/size: pdf (96K)
Date of entry/update: 10 August 2009