U Min Ko Oo

Myanmar is the second biggest exporter of pulses and beans in the world and the largest exporter among the ASEAN countries, with income from pulses and beans contributing to 14.7% of the national agricultural product exports. Founded in 1992, Myanmar Pulses, Beans & Sesame Seeds Merchants Association is celebrating quarter of a century dedicated to ensuring fair benefits for local producers, local traders, exporters and foreign buyers. U Min Ko Oo, Secretary of the Association, discusses Myanmar’s pulses and beans production and exports.

European Times: What is the capacity of the sector and which are the key markets for pulses and beans?

U Min Ko Oo: More than one million tonnes of pulses and beans valued at around US$1 billion are exported every year, while the foreign demand for these crops is constantly growing. Myanmar’s major bean export crops are black gram, pigeon pea and green gram, which are becoming increasingly popular with farmers, as they are sold for higher prices and have lower production costs.

As one of the major sources of revenue for the country, a total of 80% of Myanmar’ pulses and bean are purchased by India, while the remaining 20% are mainly exported to China, Europe, ASEAN countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The European Union became one of the key markets in recent years, and Myanmar is now focused on increasing its export to the Middle East and the United States to help meet its export target of 1.4 million tonnes.

European Times: How would you describe the cooperation between Myanmar and India in relations to the pulses and beans trade?

U Min Ko Oo: Traditionally, bean trading between India and Myanmar takes place through merchants at the border trade stations. However, due to India’s rising demand, the governments of the two countries signed a bilateral treaty to implement a government to government (G2G) export scheme, which is expected to launch in 2017, and which will primarily focus on benefiting bean cultivators by bringing new technologies. Myanmar’s bean cultivators will be supported with new agricultural technology, as well as agro-chemicals and fertilisers, which will raise both bean productivity and quality. Our association will also take responsibility to guarantee profitability for Myanmar’s merchants.

European Times: What are some of the challenges in this sector?

U Min Ko Oo: The lack of access to quality seeds and price volatility have negative impact on the production potential, as was pointed out in the recent Myanmar Economic Monitor released by the World Bank. Additionally, transportation obstacles make it difficult to collect the beans.Furthermore, unpredictable weather changes are becoming an increasing threat. Due to the low yield which resulted from the hotter climate, Myanmar exported only 1.1 million tonnes of pulses and beans in 2015-2016,compared to 1.3 million tonnes in 2014-2015 and 1.4 million tonnes in 2013-2014. Farmers need the government’s support for the availability of seeds, finance and techniques to resist high temperature. On a global level, generating new ideas and solutions is more than necessary, since pulses and beans will play a key role in the global food security.