Irrawaddy delta, government of Myanmar, world price, Agriculture Organization, sesame
Some 15 percent of the total land surface of Myanmar is suitable for farming, and only 2.8 percent is irrigated. Farmers own their own land but must sell part of their production to the government at a very low fixed price. Myanmar remains an important rice producer, based on the annually flooded paddy lands of the Irrawaddy delta and the irrigated areas in Upper Myanmar. An estimated 21 million metric tons of rice were harvested in 2001. Rice exports, which had been around 3 million metric tons before World War II, were only 600,000 metric tons annually in the early 1980s and around the 200,000 metric-ton level in the early 1990s. Exports of rice dwindled in the late 1990s, in part because the majority of domestic supplies were consumed by the growing population of Myanmar. While the greatest land area is devoted to rice (5.1 million hectares/12.6 million acres in 1992-1993), significant amounts of land are also planted with sesame (1.2 million hectares/2.9 million acres), peanuts (600,000 hectares/1.4 million acres), and a variety of beans as well as sunflower, sugarcane, corn, cotton, and wheat. Although the amount of land cultivated for most crops was increased in the late 1980s and early 1990s, productivity fell, in part because less fertilizer was used, a decline from 194,087 metric tons in 1985 to 70,732 metric tons in 1990. By 1999 use of fertilizers had rebounded somewhat to 156,800 metric tons, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported food production was growing quickly. Generally, the terms of trade for Myanmar’s agricultural exports (their world price compared to the prices of manufactured goods that Myanmar imports) have been declining.
Myanmar is one of the world’s major producers of opium, a substance used in the production of heroin for illegal drug trafficking, mainly to Western countries. The drug trade within Myanmar is carried on largely by Sino-Burmese and Shan warlords in the Golden Triangle area bordering Thailand, Laos, and China. In the mid-1990s more than 60 percent of the world’s heroin supply reportedly came from Myanmar. In 1997 the government of Myanmar agreed to participate in a United Nations drug-control project to reduce the illegal production and trafficking of opium. Both production and area harvested for opium reportedly declined in the country in the late 1990s. In 2001 Myanmar again became the world’s top supplier of opium as the supply from Afghanistan, which had become the leading source, decreased dramatically.
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