The sudden rise in world rice prices and Myanmar’s inflation

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – August 22 Scenes

MoeMaKa, August 23, 2023

The sudden rise in world rice prices and Myanmar’s inflation


As a result of India banning the export of all other types of rice except for the good-quality, high-priced rice called basmati, the price of rice in the world rice market immediately rose, according to news reports. As India is the largest exporter of rice in the world, India’s suspension of export rights for a period of time has a major impact on the global rice market. It is also said that it was done in order to prevent India from experiencing an increase in the price of rice in the run-up to the election and to prevent voters from voting for another party instead of the current ruling party due to the increase in the price of rice.


If world rice prices rise, what benefits can Myanmar, which is involved in exporting rice, enjoy? What will the impacts be? As Myanmar is a country that grows rice and exports it to other countries, the increase in world rice prices should be viewed positively as it will bring benefits to rice farmers. However, on the other hand, there is a question of whether the farmers will really enjoy the benefit of the increase in the price of rice.


Most of the farmers in Myanmar have to sell their rice to traders and mill owners when the rice has just been harvested. Therefore, when the rice price rises, they don’t have any rice left in their hands. As for rice growers in the areas of armed conflict in Sagaing Region, such as Shwebo, Taze, Ye-U, Khin-U, etc., due to the ongoing armed conflict and the frequent raids and targeted destruction of houses, food warehouses, and granaries by the military council troops, they have to send the rice to the cities and sell it at the market price immediately after harvesting.


Before the armed conflict occurred, when they didn’t need money at the moment, they used to sell only the amount needed after the rice harvest and store the rest of the rice. However, after the outbreak of armed conflicts, the junta convoys raided, took away, or burned the stored rice, so they no longer store the rice and immediately sell it to the rice traders in Shwebo, Monywa, and other cities, said a local in Taze. As rice traders and exporters, they may benefit from the good price, but for farmers, it seems there is no way to benefit from the high price of rice.


Again, for the daily wage workers, due to the rise in the price of rice in the domestic market, the price of rice to buy and eat on a daily basis may rise without an increase in their income.


Due to the rapid increase in global rice prices while the Myanmar kyat is depreciating, domestic rice consumers who do not grow rice may be affected like a double-edged sword. If the daily consumed-rice price rises domestically with an excuse for the increase in the world price while the income is not raised, there is a possibility that it will transform into a political problem, not just an economic problem.


Myanmar is the third-largest exporter of rice in Southeast Asia after Vietnam and Thailand. But after the military coup, rice agriculture is also affected due to the armed conflicts and because the young and middle-aged workforce who could work had to take leave and work in menial jobs abroad. In addition to rice farming, we have also heard reports that many tea-picking workers from Myanmar’s central Anyar region are not able to work in northern Shan State, such as Shwephi tea-picking in northern Shan State, like before. Myanmar’s armed conflict has not only led to wars but also to low development, the destruction of employment opportunities, and food insecurity.