Fund crunch threatens rice production in Burma: WFP

by Solomon
Wednesday, 03 June 2009 21:35

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Farmers in the cyclone affected areas in Burma are in acute need of cash and credit assistance to buy inputs for the ensuing monsoon planting season, the United Nations World Food Programme said.

Chris Kaye, country director of the WFP in Rangoon, told Mizzima on Wednesday, “The current priority of the assistance community generally is to help ensure small farmers have the required cash and credit to purchase inputs for the current planting season.”

While WFP is able to continue work without many problems in distributing food assistance, “food and water remains critical for cyclone survivors, in many areas of Burma’s Irrawaddy delta” he said.

But he said the current priority is to help farmers, whose farms were inundated and destroyed by the cyclone, plant crops in the current planting season.

The Irrawaddy delta, also known as Burma’s rice bowl, was laid waste by the deadly Cyclone Nargis, leaving at least 130,000 dead or missing and devastating the lives of more than 2.4 million people.

Sean Turnell, Professor of Economics in Macquarie University in Australia said in an earlier interview to Mizzima that the rural economy in Burma is on the verge of collapse due to lack of funds and micro-credit system. Earlier, he said, most farmers rely on money lenders for loan or credit, but with the impact of the cyclone, farmers can no longer rely on money lenders as they face equal devastation.

He said farmers are facing extreme difficulties as they were unable to get enough cash from the sale of their paddy products in the last season, because of the decreasing prices caused by the global economic recession.

He urged the Burmese regime to inject money in the rural economy to help the farmers.

Meanwhile, farmers in the Irrawaddy delta complained of lack of available funds even for borrowing and are desperately in need of assistance to be able to plant in the current season.

“We are facing difficulties in starting our work because of financial problems. It is very difficult to get loans,” said a farmer who could only cultivate half an acre in the last monsoon.

“I did not get any monetary support or material for farming except tarpaulins,” he said.

He said like him, most farmers are still unable to cultivate all their farmland as they have no money to buy inputs for cultivation. And some have already stopped farming.

UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) earlier told Mizzima that shortage of fund is becoming a big challenge in continuing with the recovery work.

Shin Imao, FAO’s representative in Burma told Mizzima, rice production has drastically plummeted and the recovery of livelihoods and food security is still a big challenge.

“Production is down, so we need to have more quick responses to assist farmers to recover production,” said Imao.

Rice production in the delta dropped drastically after Cyclone Nargis struck, “with the produce 45 per cent less than previous years,” Imao said.

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