FAO warning of increasing acute food insecurity in Myanmar

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 29 Scenes

MoeMaKa, May 30, 2023

FAO warning of increasing acute food insecurity in Myanmar

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which monitors food aid and warns, has announced that Myanmar has been added to the list of countries of special concern regarding food insecurity.

Due to the ongoing armed conflicts and violence, Myanmar has been listed as one of the 22 countries in the world that are of particular concern regarding food insecurity.

When it comes to food, Myanmar is a country that mainly works on agriculture, and it is a country that can not only produce enough rice for its own people but can even export it abroad. However, factors such as the worsening security due to the ongoing armed conflict, widespread armed conflicts in agriculture-mainly focused areas, a shortage of local labor force as many young and middle-aged people who can work in agriculture go to Malaysia, neighboring Thailand, and other countries to work, climate change, and natural disasters like storms have greatly affected food production and distribution in Myanmar. It should be said that the situations where job opportunities are scarce due to rising commodity prices and people with low incomes cannot afford to buy and consume are the current situation of last year and now 2023.

Fierce armed clashes are occurring in some parts of Bago Region, Sagaing Region, and some parts of Magway Region, which can be said to be the second largest rice producers in Myanmar, and the local people have been unable to do agriculture since last year. As for farmers and peasants, we have heard reports of the junta’s armed forces burning food that they have cultivated and collected to eat. Also, in some areas of Sagaing, Magway, Chin State, and Mandalay, houses were burned and food was destroyed.

Farmers in Myanmar have also been affected by the depreciation of the Myanmar kyat, inflation, and the rise in fuel and fertilizer prices around the world. Due to the increase in production costs, the price of a tin bag of refined rice (16 pyi) has reached over 100,000 kyats.

Not only that, but because the military council has practiced a blockade strategy called “4-cut” in many areas where armed conflict is taking place, the prices of rice and other food items in these areas have increased. It is also read in the news that the prices of rice are significantly high in areas where employment opportunities are scarce and incomes are low, in conflict areas such as townships in Chin State, some townships in Rakhine State, and in the upper Sagaing Region. Currently, the price of rice is unprecedentedly high, and if the local community is unable to produce its own food, it will be difficult to buy and eat at the high prices.

The aggravating incident in the situation described above was the cyclone that entered Myanmar through Rakhine State on the 14th of this month. This storm caused serious damage to the agriculture and food production industries in Rakhine State, and at least 60,000 acres of beans, sesame, and other crops were destroyed in Sagaing and Magway.

Considering these conditions, there is no doubt that Myanmar is at risk of a food shortage. Even if there is food, there is still the problem of a lack of money to buy it.

We have also read the news that the United Nations has asked international countries to contribute funds to provide humanitarian aid after the recent cyclone Mocha in the past few days.

However, due to the effects of the Ukraine-Russia war in the world, the aid to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, and the billions of dollars spent on providing Ukraine with military weapons in that war, there are also signs that cases like the Myanmar issue can no longer be seen as so important, and it is also a situation where they have to rely on themselves and put in more effort.

After Cyclone Nargis struck in 2008, local social aid groups and civil society organizations emerged, and there is an example of helping some areas of Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions that were affected by Nargis for months.

In the situation where Cyclone Mocha hit, the fact that the domestic political situation not being the same at that time is a weakness, but the experience of helping, connecting and organizing is better than the situation after Nargis.

There is also a point of concern about whether the armed conflict and the food crisis together will make the political problem more difficult to solve like in some parts of the world and some countries and it will be necessary for political forces to be aware and prepare in advance.