Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Farmers Face Fertilizer Shortage

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese department of agriculture is not providing farmers with an adequate supply of chemical fertilizer for the monsoon paddy, forcing prices to rise in the country’s agricultural heartland.

“The government is currently selling only one bag (50 kg) of fertilizer for every 20 acres,” a farmer in Nyaunglebin Township, Pegu Division, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Burmese farmers normally use 25 kg of chemical fertilizer per acre to produce at least 80 baskets (1668.8 kg) of paddy. The government usually supplies one 50-kg bag for every three acres of paddy, according to the farmer.

“We are only producing about 50 baskets of paddy per acre. If we added more fertilizer, our yield would increase by more than 30 baskets,” said Win Maung, a farmer from Waw Township, Pegu Division.

The Burmese government operates three factories which produce low-cost fertilizer for the entire country. Fertilizers are also imported from neighboring countries through Maungdaw in Arakan State, Muse in Shan State and Myawaddy in Karen State, according to a fertilizer merchant in Pegu.

In the past, fertilizers were mainly imported from Bangladesh and Thailand, but at present, China is the source of about 90 percent of the fertilizer used in Lower Burma, said the merchant. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia also supply small quantities.

“Fertilizer prices have increased everywhere in Burma this paddy season, because the Burmese government can’t produce enough for farmers’ needs,” he added.

In the third week of July, the price of a 50-kg bag of urea fertilizer increased from 29,000 kyat (US $25) to 31,000 kyat ($26.70) in Pegu Township. The government price was 21,000 kyat ($18) per 50-kg bag.

There are about 19 million acres of farmland under cultivation in Burma, 19 million bags of chemical fertilizer bags every year.

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