Thanks to strong demand from India, local farmers are having to scrape together every last bean they can find for export.
Myanmar, the world’s second-largest bean producer after Canada, has been struggling to meet an export order now edging toward a billion tonnes of beans since its giant, and hungry neighbour to the west said it wanted to import a total of 900,000 tonnes.
U Khin Maung Lwin, assistant secretary for the Ministry of Commerce, said discussions were proceeding with India, which wanted to amend an existing memorandum of understanding to increase its imports. While Myanmar was ready to export 600,000 or 700,000 tonnes of mung bean and green gram, it can meet the demand for an extra 200,000 tonnes only by throwing in pigeon peas as well.
“They want mung and green gram. We already sell 600,000 or 700,000 tonnes to India of those two types, but we don’t have enough to meet an order for 900,000 tonnes. We might be able to make it if we add pigeon peas. Our department is negotiating this,” he said.
This will put paid to any attempt by Myanmar to penetrate any other market, he added.
The Ministry of Commerce is taking the lead in the negotiations, which will also bring in the ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Office and the Myanmar Pulses, Beans and Sesame Seeds Merchants’ Association.
They hope to be able to reply to India soon, said the assistant secretary.
The Indian demand has already driven up the price of mung beans from K1.25 million a tonne to K1.45 million, said U Myat Soe, an executive with the Myanmar Pulses, Beans and Sesame Seeds Merchantsâ€™ Association.
According to the Ministry of Commerce, the export of 720,000 tonnes of beans since the start of this fiscal year brought in US$838 million, of which more than half, or $440 million, came from the export of 310,000 tonnes of mung beans.
Last yearâ€™s exports were in excess of the 720,000 tonnes exported so far this year, but income on the exports was only $666 million.
â€œWe earned more this year than last year because the prices are higher. We might be able to export the same tonnage as last year,â€ said U Myat Soe.
Indian consumers place value the Myanmar mung bean and the pigeon pea for their quality and taste, which explains why almost 80pc of Myanmarâ€™s pulses exports are sent to India. India has promised to provide money and seeds, but first has to confirm that the seeds they intend to supply will be a good match with Myanmarâ€™s climate and soil, said U Khin Maung Lwin said.
Myanmar exports beans and pulses to more than 50 countries, including Pakistan, UAE, Malaysia and Vietnam.