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Farmers begin getting bigger loans, but for some, it’s a little too late

File photo of Burmese farmers harvesting rice. (Photo: DVB)

The government’s Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank will provide 150,000 kyat (US$128) per acre agricultural loans to farmers in some areas for the upcoming monsoon planting season, according to state media reports.

The bank’s branch in Myanaung Township, Irrawaddy Division, began handing out loans on 10 May to more than 18,000 local farmers cultivating a total of 103,200 acres of land in the area. The loan, offered at 8 percent interest, is available to farmers holding a Form 7 certificate, which entitles them to utilise farmland under the 2012 Farmland Law.

The loan targets farmers of rice paddy, who previously could only borrow 100,000 kyat ($85).

State media reported the programme is also being introduced in Shan State, where a total of 10.8 billion kyat ($9.2 million) in credit will be offered to some 26,553 farmers in 26 townships across the state in the second week of May.

“The assistance is provided to every farmer who paid back their previous loan — those with outstanding loans cannot get it this year — and we are prioritising farmers with less than 10 acres,” said Myo Tint Tun, assistant secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Breeding.

“We increased the loan as much as possible this year to effectively assist the farmers,” he added.

The government is also providing loans for sugar-cane farmers at 100,000 kyat per acre. The loan for other crops will remain at 20,000 kyat ($17) per acre.

Meanwhile, farmers in some areas say they are still waiting for their loans.

“It would be nice if we could get it earlier, but the bank hasn’t started handing them out in our region yet,” said Kyaw Oo, a farmer in Pegu Division’s Tharawaddy District.

“We are struggling to urgently repay our former loans as the deadline is on 16 May. If we can’t, we will not get a new loan,” he added.

He suggested it would make life easier for farmers if the loans could be repaid over a longer period of time.

“As the bank provides the loans rather late every year, we have to get loans from elsewhere at higher interest rates to invest in our farms, and we are now burdened with a lot of interest to pay back, so that we end up with nothing left to spend when we get the government loan,” he said.

Farmers say it normally costs between 80,000 and 100,000 kyat ($68-85) to cultivate each acre of farmland, including the cost of rice paddy seeds, fertiliser and tenant’s fees. They said that a loan of 150,000 kyat per acre should be enough to meet their needs.

Reporting by DVB