As labourers leave Myanmar delta, farmers struggle to mechanise

On a recent November morning, farmer U Soe Myint Aung was busy collecting rice from his harvester and loading it into bags. It is heavy work but still he knows he is lucky; with 17 acres of paddy field situated along a road in Kwinyar village, in Kangyidaunt township, he can afford to own a harvester. Most farmers in Ayeyarwady Region, the country’s ‘rice bowl’ and home to some 10 million people, lack enough land and capital to afford use of mechanical harvesters, while their uneven plots are often difficult to access with the machines. The lack of mechanised farming has become a pressing problem, many farmers and officials here said, as manual labour is in short supply in the delta region, where farming remains labour intensive. “Due to labour shortages farmers can’t plant their paddies in a timely manner,” U Soe Myint Aung said. “Also, the harvest can be delayed and the crops could be damaged by rains; such paddy doesn’t get a good price.”

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