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Agriculture in Myanmar - statistics & facts

The agriculture sector has always traditionally been Myanmar’s main industry, employing over half of the labor force. Although this key industry has added significant contributions to Myanmar’s total gross domestic product (GDP) throughout the years, 2018 saw a sharp turning point in economic output for Myanmar’s agriculture sector. Myanmar’s agricultural industry can be divided into three sectors: crop production, livestock, and fishing. In terms of Myanmar’s main crop production, it is renowned for its production of rice, sugar cane, and dry beans, among other vegetables. Interestingly, Myanmar was once the biggest exporter of rice in Asia. Taking this into consideration, it does not seem too surprising that rice is Myanmar’s most vital agricultural commodity. However, the production volume of rice has decreased steadily from 2010 while the production volume of sugar cane and dry beans has increased.

Controversy surrounding farming methods

In terms of its forests and the resources provided, Myanmar is considered to be relatively rich despite the controversy surrounding the country due to its varying farming methods. Myanmar adopted a farming method known as slash-and-burning, which involves setting fire to areas of forests in order to create fields in which crops can be cultivated. Once the nutrients have been used from the specified field, the land is abandoned to allow it to grow freely. This can be viewed as controversial as it is seen as a process of deforestation which causes soil erosion. However, counter arguments are given that slash-and-burning is better than other farming methods as the land is not destroyed after use. Nevertheless, the government has increased attempts to try to regulate farming methods. Despite the arguments the area of reserved forests has steadily increased.

Livestock farming

Not only does Myanmar produce high volumes of crops, it also produces livestock – for food and labor purposes and is reliant on fishing. Consequently, both sectors have experienced increased GDP contributions up to 2018. Fishing is an integral industry throughout the country, as fish remains a vital source of protein for the population, as well as being a part of Myanmar’s typical cuisine. Usual fishing methods involve trawling, in which a fishing net is pulled behind a boat in the water to catch large amounts of fish. As a step to increase the number of fish caught, the government tried to encourage deep-sea-fishing during the 1980s.

The future of agriculture

As Southeast Asia becomes more technologically developed and Myanmar recovers from its past economic struggles, there has been speculation of whether Myanmar will also transition from agriculture to industry. It is clear that the agriculture sector has suffered in Myanmar recently, adding an unusually low contribution towards the country’s GDP in 2018. While the GDP contributions from the industry and services sector were significantly higher than agriculture, they also suffered in 2018, with the GDP amounting to approximately a third of the GDP value of the previous year. However, there have been suggestions that Myanmar could well in fact quadruple its economy by 2030, if it were to increase investments into more technological industries. If the country is to continue to rely on agriculture as a crucial economic sector, then it may have to address the problems within the sector by upgrading its agricultural methods.

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Agriculture in Myanmar

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