Farmers seek land bill changes

By Ei Ei Toe Lwin
Volume 31, No. 616
February 27 - March 4, 2012

FARMERS from Ayeyarwady Region have sent a letter to the president and other members of the government and parliament that outlines seven points they believe need to be addressed for rural land reform laws.

“In this letter we outlined seven points to include in the Farmland Law. These points are very important for us and we think that they can solve our difficulties,” said U Ohn Kywe, a farmer from Kyaung Su village in Bogale township.

The letter, which was signed by 1421 farmers, was sent on January 21 to the president, speakers of the Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw, attorney general, hluttaw bill committees, chief minister of Ayeyarwady Region and local Pyithu Hluttaw representatives.

Speaking to The Myanmar Times in Mawlamyinegyun in mid-February, farmers involved in the campaign said that they wanted their recommendations to be included in the Farmland Bill and Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Bill, which are both currently in the process of being amended and approved by parliament.

The letter was the result of a workshop held in Bogale’s Tae Pin Thit village on January 2 and 3 that was attended by farmers from Bogale, Kyaiklat and Mawlamyinegyun townships. Participants shared their thoughts on land use issues and discussed how these could be addressed under new land laws, distilling the issues to seven key points.

These include the right to own farmland; use water resources their land; establish and register farmer associations, access adequate and reasonably priced credit; solve land conflicts through the courts as well as land management committees; sell produce on a stable market; grow the crops of their choice

Myanma Agricultural Development Bank (MADB) provides loans of K40,000 an acre at an interest rate of 2 percent a month but this is not enough to cover paddy production costs.

“It costs me between K150,000 and K180,000 to grow an acre of paddy,” said U Tin Oo of Kanyine Kone village in Kyaiklat township.

“My own capital is K80,000, and I get K100,000 from other sources but interest rates are so high – I have to pay from 7pc to 20pc [a month]. We get K280,000 for 100 baskets, but it is not easy to get 100 basket from an acre. Often it’s only 70 or 80 baskets so when the price is down, after I pay all my debts I have no money left – sometimes I even have to give my land to pay off the loan,” said U Tin Oo, who also signed the petition letter.

U Tint Lwin, a farmer from Kywe Chan Chaung Pyar village in Mawlamyinegyun township, said that while rice specialist companies offered cheap credit they also purchased paddy from farmers at below market prices.

“One of those rice specialist companies made the price unstable while buying paddy from us,” said U Tint Lwin. “Last year, one basket cost K3600 but the companies offered us K3400 … and they cheated us on the weighing system. It is unfair because we also have to pay them interest on the loan.

“We facing so many problems, he said.

“And we cannot stand it any more. We have had bitter experiences for many years. Now we think it’s time to express our feeling and request our rights.”

U Ohn Kywe said that about two-thirds of the country’s population were involved in agriculture, and many were poor farmers trapped in a cycle of debt.

“The government should fulfill these seven points if they really want poverty alleviation.”

Another signatory, U Ohn Myint from Myinkakone village in Bogale, said the group expected at least five of the issues to be addressed in the new laws.

“According to the hluttaw discussion and an interview with U Htay Oo in [local media] we can get five points, except the right to own land and the right to register farmers associations. We also heard we will be able to grow crops we like and we can give back loans [to MADB] until March 31. Even though this has always been the official deadline they used to make us pay back loans at the end of February.”