Myanmar’s Natural Rubber Policy: Key Stakeholders and Farmers’ Participatory Approach

Myanmar’s Natural Rubber Policy: Key Stakeholders and Farmers’ Participatory Approach

Published: 2021.08.30
Accepted: 2021.08.26
8
Director
Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar
Professor
Department of Agricultural Economics Yezin Agricultural University, Myanmar

ABSTRACT

In Myanmar, rubber is a priority crop in national development plans, which employs about 350,000- 400,000 workers, mainly in the plantation or upstream sector linked to planting and production of raw natural rubber. The study aims to identify critical intervention areas of rubber production for advising alternative policies based on key stakeholder participatory approach for competitiveness of Myanmar’s rubber industry for future development. The study was conducted in Kyaikto Township, Thaton District in Mon State. Focus Group Discussion (FGD) was used as a qualitative approach to gain an in-depth understanding of stakeholders on the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) of the rubber industry. The 20 key stakeholders were selected as rubber farmers with different farm sizes, rubber tappers, farmer cooperative members, private estate owner and managers. According to the results of SWOT analysis, the strengths factors were fertile soil, favorable climate, high market demand, jobs opportunity to create a stable income, the presence of strong public and private institutions, and skilled labor in rubber production. Weaknesses were land tenure problems, poor quality of rubber seedlings, limited and outdated recommended clones, low yield, limited crops for substitution, labor scarcity, high wages, limited production technologies and scarce financial sources. Opportunities were cooperation and coordination between public and private, internal migrant labor that are migrated from various parts of Myanmar especially from delta and dry zone regions with low cost, remittance, integrated farming with livestock rearing, and more research activities. Conversely, the climate change impacts, world rubber price crash, low domestic price, increasing rubber production and Synthetic Rubber-SR substitution were threats to rubber production. According to the SWOT, land tenure system, rubber seedling quality, research and development, training and education were found out as the critical intervention areas. Therefore, land tenure, quality control, research and capacity building were very important policies for rubber production sector forwards. According to the farmers participating approach, to implement empirical-based alternative policies as intervention instrument are land tenure policy which would be in line with the national land tenure policy and quality control policy which would be specific for seedlings, nurseries and rubber products.

Keywords: farmers, key stakeholders, participatory, policy, production, rubber

INTRODUCTION

Rubber is a priority crop in Myanmar’s national development plans. From 1979 to 1992, many people involved in the country’s rubber industry sought assistance from international organizations to replant rubber plantations with high-yielding cultivars and to modernize the deteriorating rubber industry. According to State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), the government launched an Open Door policy in 1989, the production of perennial crops was partially liberalized and private estate owners and smallholders re-engaged in the rubber production sector (Myint, 2008).

There was also a significant increase in planting areas and rubber production after 2006-2007 because the government liberalized the rubber export policy by allowing both growers and dealers to export without any restrictions. Since 2010, Myanmar’s economic policy is following market-oriented reforms and has substantially been increasing its integration into the world economy. The national policy context of rubber production in Myanmar was highly influenced on rubber planting area, production and export value. Therefore, in 2019, Myanmar became one of the largest rubber producers in the world.

Consequently, it was estimated that the sector employed about 350,000- 400,000 workers, mainly in the plantation or upstream sector linked to planting and production of raw natural rubber (Odaka, 2015). Moreover, 60% and more of key players were women in the production and marketing sectors. In rubber production activities like tapping rubber tree and collecting latex, women have the ability to work like men where there was no discrimination to women in the wages. Additionally, women were active in the marketing activities, in which the rubber farmers sold their rubber sheets by women from their family members and bought by women from middlemen’s family (Kyaw Myo Thu, 2019).

Objectives of the study

  1. To identify critical intervention areas of rubber production by SWOT analysis 
  2. To advise alternative policies based on key stakeholder participatory approach for competitiveness of Myanmar’s rubber industry for future development.

METHODOLOGY

The study emphasized on ‘traditional’ rubber growing areas, Mon State which contributed about 31% of the total rubber sown areas and about 49% of the rubber harvest of the country. According to the Mon State Rural Household Survey conducted from May to June 2015, it was about 19% of households possessed rubber farms, making the sector as large as the state’s rice sector. In Mon state, Thaton District was selected to study for this specific objective. In Thaton District, the selected township was Kyaikto Township and it contributed about 29% of rubber planting areas of Thaton District and presented different stakeholders of rubber industry. Based on rubber farm size, different types of rubber farmers were observed in Kyaikto Township based on farm size and mostly who were smallholder rubber farmers.

Focus Group Discussion (FGD) was conducted to analyze key stakeholders' perception of the rubber production. In this study, FGD was used as a qualitative approach to gain an in-depth understanding of stakeholders on the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) of rubber industry. Therefore, qualitative data were collected from a purposely selected group of key stakeholders from the study areas. The lists of stakeholders for FGD had prioritized by pilot survey to rubber farmers. The 20 key stakeholders were selected as rubber farmers with different farm sizes, rubber tappers, farmer cooperative members, private estate owner and managers. FGD was conducted during October 2018. The list of participants and information detail of FDG is shown in Table 1.

In this study, SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) method was used to identify internal contexts: strengths and weaknesses and also external contexts: opportunities and threats for investigated current situation and find out critical intervention areas.

The steps of SWOT analysis for rubber production were as follows:

  1. Situational analysis to rubber production area by SWOT analysis by FGD;
  2. Then, listed the internal contexts and external contexts of rubber production area;
  3. Prioritized by combining the same factors and eliminated inapplicable and least important factors;
  4. To deepen the analysis, prioritized SWOT factors were inserted into strategies matrix. The strategies matrix formulated the possible strategies on the basis of internal contexts: strengths and weaknesses factors in combination with external contexts: opportunities and threats;
  5. The numbers of possible specific strategies were formulated and combined into more common strategies; and
  6. These common strategies pointed out critical intervention areas for production sector.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

SWOT analysis of the rubber production sector

According to the results of SWOT analysis, the rubber production sector was basically important to become economically comparative of the rubber industry. It had a number of internal strengths and external potential opportunities that help to achieve the development, and internal weaknesses and external possible threats that were found to be destructive for further development of rubber production.

The strengths factors of rubber production sector were fertile soil types, favorable climate condition and the high market demand. Moreover, jobs opportunities in the rubber production sector created a stable income for the labor and it also had a chance to be involved in the family labor. The presence of strong public and private institutions, the presence of skilled labor and high women participation in rubber production were also the strengths factors of rubber production.

On the other hand, weaknesses factors of rubber production sector were land tenure problems, poor quality of rubber seedlings, limited and outdated recommended clones and low yield. Moreover, there were limited alternative crops for substitution to the rubber and labor scarcity with high wages for rubber tapping. Additionally, farmers were limited to access production technologies and financial sources.

However, there were opportunities for the rubber production sector such as cooperation and coordination between public and private, presence of internal migrant labor who migrate from various parts of Myanmar especially from delta and dry zone regions, which are important labor force in rubber sector with low cost than the local labor. Additionally, remittance from migrants might be an opportunity to invest in rubber production. There was also an opportunity to diversify rubber-based integrated farming with livestock rearing. Moreover, there were more public and private institutes that were performing more research activities for rubber production than before.

Conversely, the climate change impacts on rubber production, world rubber price crash and lower domestic price, increasing volume of rubber production and SR substitution were considered threats to the development of rubber production sector. Table 2 defined the internal and external contexts of the rubber production sector.

Possible specific strategies of production sector by the combination of SWOT

According to the methodology, possible specific strategies of rubber production sector were formulated by a combination of SWOT factors using strategies matrix. Figure 1 presented possible strategies matrix for the rubber production sector.

Critical intervention areas of the rubber production sector

  1. Land tenure system

The majority of rubber farmers were facing land tenure problems in the study area. They wanted to receive an official certificate for land rights for their rubber farms because they could be used for the loan collateral. They also wanted to validate their ownership. Some farmers required the legal permission of rubber production for existing rubber plantations in the forest land. Therefore, better land tenure system was required to achieve better competitiveness and the development of the rubber production sector.

  1. Quality of rubber seedlings

The quality of rubber seedlings was the second most important factor in rubber production. Rubber plantation was a long-run business and production decisions could not be adjusted in the short duration. The quality of rubber seedlings was very important in the establishment of a rubber farm. Therefore, the rubber nursery and buds wood nursery were required better management to produce quality rubber seedlings.

  1. Research and development

A number of research activities for rubber production were required in yield improvement, climate-smart agricultural practices and specific fertilizer rate. It would be both short-term and long-term programs for the development of rubber production sector. The research and development were critical and needed to promote competitiveness in rubber production sector.

  1. Training and education

Training and education programs are needed to be linked with the research and development activities. Training and education programs should follow the results from the research activities to promote yield per unit area, capacity for better production decisions, comparative business and improvement of competitiveness of rubber industry.

Alternative rubber policies via key stakeholder participatory approach with farmers

The first alternative policy for intervention was the rubber industry’s land tenure policy. It could solve the land tenure problems in rubber production and processing sectors to improve competitiveness. The policy should be formulated in line with the national land use policy. It provided the principles on how to implement, manage, and carry out land use and tenure rights in the country. It also included the recognition of customary land rights, the inclusion of women in land governance and the acknowledgement of the rights of ethnic minority groups.

Moreover, the rubber industry land tenure policy also should be harmonized with the land use and management policy launched by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation-MOALI in 2017. In this policy, the first section states that all farmers who produce the crops, livestock and fish shall be able to access, transfer, sell, mortgage, lend exchange, give away, and inherit their rights of tilling and using. According to the above policies, rubber industry land tenure policy should be developed more specific for rubber stakeholders to access their lands and to receive official land certificates for ownership rights in their properties. Moreover, it was also required to facilitate rubber processing factories to receive an official certificate to improve competitiveness. Additionally, the policy should also be emphasized on the legal permission for existing rubber plantation in the forest land. The policy should also be considered sustainable guidelines to balance the economic, environmental, and social aspects of rubber production to be green industries in the long-term.

Moreover, rubber industry quality control policy would be an essential alternative policy for improved competitiveness and the development of the rubber industry. It should especially focus on rubber clones, seedlings, nurseries as well as rubber and rubber products. The policy should be fulfilled with the requirement of rubber farmers for high yield recommended clones and qualified rubber seedlings by the registered nurseries. Therefore, the rubber industry quality control policy should be supported by an enforcement of the seed law which had been launched by the Department of Agriculture -DOA since 2015.

As the quality of inputs was also important for the improvement of competitiveness in the rubber production sector and cost-effectiveness, policy should also be emphasized not only for the product but also for the inputs used in rubber farms. However, to control agricultural inputs, it was required to follow by the input strategic thrust policy launched by MOALI in 2017.

Another important policy is research and development policy for activities of rubber production sector for getting high yield and quality product. Human capital and resource development are basically needed to be competitive and comparative business both domestically and internationally. The rubber industry’s human resource development policy would also be important.

CONCLUSION

In the rubber production sector, key stakeholder farmers were facing land tenure problems, poor-quality seedlings, limited recommended high yield clones, no specific fertilizer recommendation rate, skilled labor scarcity and high wages and limited financial sources. Moreover, rubber farmers were experiencing climate change impacts and poor extension services in rubber production. However, women had high participation in the rubber production and marketing sectors. The critical interventions for improvement of the competitiveness and the development of rubber production sector are better land tenure system for rubber farmers’ quality control of rubber seedlings, research and development, training and education for production practices.

Finally, to improve the competitiveness and sustainable development of the rubber industry, it is required to overcome weaknesses and threats as well as to intervene in critically needed areas. Therefore, the study points out and provides the recommendations to implement empirical-based alternative policies as intervention instruments like the land tenure policy which should be in line with the national land tenure policy, and the quality control policy which would be specific for seedlings, nurseries and rubber products. However, as the nature of perennial crops, it was not simply implied that the interventions for the rubber industry would be considered for not only short-term planning but also for long-term strategic planning which would protect the livelihood of stakeholders, especially for rubber farmers, and ensure the sustainable development of Myanmar’s rubber industry.

REFERENCES

Kyaw Myo Thu 2019. Study on Myanmar rubber industry towards emperical based development policy. Master thesis. Yezin Agricultural Univeristy

Myint, H 2008. Development of rubber planting industry in Myanmar: Review and major constraints. Paper presented at the Unpublished paper pressed at the International Rubber Research and Development Board Conference.

Odaka, K 2015. Setting the Conditions for Stable Economic Development- Reflections on the Outcomes of an Economic Policy Support Project for Myanmar. The Program for Economic Development in Myanmar, FINAL REPORT, pp 21-43.

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