New export strategy puts spotlight on rice, EU market

Myanmar is aiming to revive its status as a major rice exporter with a new national export strategy that puts the grain at the top of the list and targets the European Union as a prime market.

The five-year strategy was unveiled on September 3 at a gathering of business leaders at the Yangon office of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Government officials called on them to rethink their approach to exports by shifting their focus to value-added products and urged them to consider the image of Myanmar they create by exporting cheap products.

Commerce ministry adviser Dr Maung Aung said export promotion could only be accomplished by stressing quality as well as quantity.

He said Myanmar rice had an advantage in the European market because it was less expensive than Thai and Vietnamese rice. Moreover, the European Union has included Myanmar in its generalised system of preferences, which allows the country duty and quota free access to the market for all products, excluding arms and ammunition. Myanmar is also in the process of negotiating a new rice export deal with China, one that will require it to ensure the quality of its rice exports to its northern neighbour.

“Paddy has the highest potential demand, that is why we put it in the top place,” Maung Aung said. Also on the list are beans and pulses, mineral products, finished wood products and garments.

“These sectors have the highest potential,” Dr Maung Aung said, adding that mass production would also spark socio-economic development and reduce poverty. Myanmar’s garment industry is growing at a rapid pace and several global brands, including Gap, have begun souring from the country.

Previously, only oil and gas exports have drawn large amounts of money into the country, but these were excluded from the new strategy because they do not support socio-economic development, technology transfer and job creation, Maung Aung said.

Myanmar exported 1.8 million tonnes of rice in fiscal year 2012-2013. The amount fell to 1.2 million tonnes in the last fiscal year. Exports of rice are expected to surpass 1 million tonnes this year.

The national export strategy was developed over a two-year period with assistance from the German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation, also known as GIZ.


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