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Mechanizing Agriculture to Assist Myanmar's Development

Myanmar’s basic agriculture data

Agriculture accounts for approximately 40% of Myanmar’s GDP, and approximately 60% of the working population is in the agricultural sector.

Rice growing area 6.35 million ha (Vietnam: 7.82 million ha, Cambodia: 2.95 million ha)
Rice yields 2.52 t/ha (Vietnam: 5.60 t/ha, Cambodia: 2.41 t/ha) (polished rice basis)
Rice production 10.67 million tons (Vietnam: 27.65 million tons, Cambodia: 4.60 million tons) (polished rice basis)Irrigated area to cultivated acreage: 18%
Major farm products for export dried beans (61.1%), sesame (11.6%), chickpeas (7.4%), corn (6.3%), polished rice (3.4%)
(Source: JICA data)

AMD Driving the Mechanization of Agriculture in Myanmar

For Myanmar to sustain its economic growth, it is absolutely necessary to increase income levels among farming families, who account for some 60% of the country's total working population.

Taking a look at the key facts about agriculture in Myanmar, it should be noted that there is no food-control system, and so farmers are free to grow and sell any crops that they wish. The country's principal product is rice, which is often grown in a yearly cycle of rice, then beans, then rice. This is meant to prevent soil from deteriorating from a single crop. Recently, Myanmar's exported beans are fetching high prices. Key dry field crops include plants from which oil is extracted, such as peanuts and sesame, and sugarcane. Much of the land has yet to be cultivated, and the government is encouraging farmers to grow vegetables and mangos in those areas.

A comparison of rice growing areas and yields with Vietnam, a neighboring country with more highly mechanized agriculture, shows that Myanmar's rice growing area comes close to Vietnam at 6.35 million ha, but its yield – 2.52 t/ha – is only about half of that in Vietnam. Recent years have seen the young labor force being attracted to urban areas, where housing construction is booming. To enhance the appeal of agriculture to the working population, it is eagerly desired that the efficiency of agriculture be increased.

Looking at the rate of mechanization in agricultural production activities, some 50% of tilling is mechanized but only 10% of harvesting is mechanized, even in the Naypyidaw District where the shift to mechanization is being promoted. With regard to tractors, 45-horsepower models are the most popular, but the need for 75- to 90-horsepower models is growing.

KUBOTA markets its agricultural machinery to the Agricultural Mechanization Department (AMD) and local dealers via Siam KUBOTA Corporation Co., Ltd. (SKC) in Thailand. We paid a visit to AMD to get updated on the progress of agricultural mechanization in Myanmar. Under the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, AMD is an administrative organ responsible for mechanization of agricultural production throughout the country, which is divided into fifteen areas, including the Naypyidaw District, seven states, and another seven regions, and it also operates 117 Agricultural Mechanization Stations. AMD Deputy Director General U Pale Maung answered our questions.

From left: AMD Deputy Director General U Pale Maung, Director U Ko Ko Maung, and Deputy Director U Aung Win

“AMD has roughly four main functions. First, we purchase tractors, combine harvesters, and other agricultural machinery to lease (and occasionally resell) them to farmhouses that cannot afford them. Second, we reclaim land for cultivation and improve soil. Third, we study the efficient use of agricultural machinery that has been newly introduced and develop distribution channels. And fourth, we provide farming houses with technical guidance on agricultural machinery and spread production technology to Myanmar manufacturers.”

Other than KUBOTA of Japan, AMD also purchases agricultural machinery from manufacturers in neighboring countries such as China and India, but KUBOTAbranded products enjoy a high reputation in Myanmar. AMD Director U Ko Ko Maung told us, “KUBOTA's machines are popular among farmers for their high performance. Agricultural practices in Thailand and Myanmar are similar, and KUBOTA is kind enough to share the knowledge gained from operations in Thailand, and provide us with guidance on Thai-style agriculture.”

“Because KUBOTA has been here in Myanmar since the 1970s, the brand has a high recognition even among people who are not involved in agriculture.” It would seem that this high brand recognition has translated into great faith in the company.

At present, AMD owns KUBOTA combine harvesters and tractors. Of the agricultural machinery that has been delivered to AMD over the past year or two, KUBOTA-branded machines make up the largest group. “If we can convince the government to allocate a budget, we hope to add another 150 tractors and 50 combine harvesters. As mechanization advances, farmers' income will increase and they may consider purchasing such machinery for themselves,” said U Ko Ko Maung, speaking of his hopes for a bright future of agriculture in Myanmar.

At two training centers, AMD provides intensive training for engineering in conjunction with KUBOTA and other parties, but it sounded as if they needed more hands for after-sales maintenance services, as one new agricultural machine after another is imported and an increasing number of farmhouses are looking to lease them. U Ko Ko Maung expressed his wish to KUBOTA to “offer technical support and build a more prompt service parts supply structure.” They went on to seek our advice on a great number of topics concerning agricultural machinery, such as ways of allowing farmhouses to seek loans, thus showing evidence of their high expectations for KUBOTA.

AMD Headquarters

An Enthusiastic Cry from End-Users: “We want KUBOTA!”

AMD Agricultural Mechanization Station No. 47

Staff Officer U Win Thant of Agricultural Mechanization Station No. 47

To listen to what people in the field have to say, we turned our steps toward AMD's Agricultural Mechanization Stations. The first station that we visited was Number 47, where we met with Staff Officer U Win Thant, a man who has become well-versed in Japan thanks to a visit to KUBOTA's Tsukuba Plant. This station is responsible for two cities within the Naypyidaw District, which include farmland of over 67,000 acres (1 acre = approx. 4,050m2). The station leases some 100 tractors and 10 combine harvesters to around 7% of the farmhouses within their area. “KUBOTA's combine harvesters are more durable than other brands, and so farmers tell us that they want KUBOTA. In this area, they grow rice in both rainy and dry seasons. It's usually hard to harvest short rice plants, but KUBOTA's machines do the job with ease,” he said with admiration.

KUBOTA's combine harvesters not only harvest every single grain of rice, but also thresh the rice, which is another positive feature for farmers. This became evident when we saw that most of the combine harvesters in Naypyidaw bore the KUBOTA brand.

Myanmar began full-scale import of KUBOTA's tractors in 2012, and so most of the machines are still relatively new. However, one tractor takes care of approximately 2,000 acres of field in one year by performing a variety of jobs such as towing and tilling, and thus the machine gets overused, which leads to a high demand of service parts. To remind users of the importance of maintenance, KUBOTA makes it a rule to provide thorough training to members of its local partners when introducing new models, while at the same time demanding that they gather data when something goes wrong with tractors.

“Farmhouses are suffering a shortage of workers as construction businesses rob them of their labor. As such, more farmers are saying that they want a combine harvester. I wish to refer them to KUBOTA, but who should I contact?”

We were approached with such queries while we were interviewing AMD members. We were impressed by how agricultural mechanization is being accelerated in Myanmar.

Farmers at Agricultural Mechanization Station No, 47
Workers from farmhouses in the area covered by Agricultural Mechanization Station No. 47 stand in a field. Four tractors and five combine harvesters are on lease from AMD, which they use in turn in order of application. Many farmers gathered to meet us. One owned as much as 35 acres of land. One of them told us, “I would like to have KUBOTA machines, even if I had to sell some of my land to get them.”

AMD Agricultural Mechanization Station No. 84

We then visited Agricultural Mechanization Station No. 84, which is also in the Naypyidaw District. Covering 75,000 acres of land (of which 70,000 acres is farmland) and four cities, they possess some 30 tractors and 10 combine harvesters. In this area, about 10% of the farmhouses lease machines.

Here again, KUBOTA's reputation is high, even more so since KUBOTA's agricultural machines have been introduced.

At Station No. 84, we were told that they would love to have training seminars on combine harvesters. They informed us that a certain period of training is necessary for people from farmhouses to develop a sufficient understanding and for as many farmers as possible to learn how to use the machines. Farmers are all eager to acquire skills, and they would like to see such training seminars sometime in October or November, just before harvesting starts in full swing. In response, KUBOTA will continue to enhance its services by organizing training seminars on maintenance, as well as agricultural machinery operations.

Staff at Agricultural Mechanization Station No. 84
KUBOTA's tractor with AMD and No. 84 decals


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