There is nothing new about the impact food has on politics. In the old days, many kings practised food diplomacy in entertaining their guests – by serving the best and most unique dishes that could have been created only by the royal house’s finest chefs. The tradition continues in the modern political world. Many leaders of political parties and heads of government use food diplomacy to strengthen relationships between allies or diffuse tension with the opposition.
Rice seems to have emerged as a favourite diplomatic tool for Myanmar and Bangladesh to build strong ties with each other. The commodity is the staple diet for most people in countries like Indonesia, Thailand and also the neighbouring countries China and India.
The agricultural sector is one of the most important and most strategic sectors for the survival of a country, for without food the country could be in a position of chaos and bankruptcy.
There are so many ways that the Bangladesh government maintains the availability of rice, one of the most common ways is by importing rice. Bangladesh is known as an agricultural country, but unfortunately, it continues to import rice.
Due to the current state of the world, especially the Ukraine-Russia conflict, many nations have stopped exports to maintain their domestic stock. Rice is a very important commodity in the Bangladeshi people’s lives; and there is even a proverb that says that Bangladeshis have not eaten if they have not consumed rice.
Despite tensions between Myanmar and Bangladesh, Dhaka imports millions of tonnes annually, and has placed an import order with Myanmar.
As agriculture and livestock are the backbone of Myanmar’s economy, it earns foreign exchange from rice exports beyond self-sufficiency. The state is supporting the stockholders including farmers and investors to bring about business opportunities. According to the Memorandum of Understanding between Myanmar and Bangladesh, 200,000 tonnes of white rice from Myanmar will be exported to Bangladesh. A total of 2,650 tonnes of rice are to be directly shipped by the MV MCL-7 for the first time from the Ayeyarwady International Industrial Port AIIP in Pathein Industrial City, Ayeyarwady Region, to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and Myanmar officials signed a sales contract on 8 September in order for exporting 200,000 tonnes of Myanmar’s white rice to Bangladesh. About 30,000-50,000 tonnes are scheduled to be sent to Bangladesh from the Pathein Port. On 28 October, the loading of 2,650 tonnes of Emahta rice onto a ship for Bangladesh commenced.
Rice exports generate foreign currencies as well as contribute to private sector development. It is the first step of the regional efforts with the first ever direct rice shipment from Pathein city to the external market, with an aim to spur the developments in public and private sectors harmoniously together. The next step is to facilitate the trade in the Pathein Industrial City. The exports of rice also cause the GDP growth in the region. In addition to rice, corn and sesame are also targeted for direct export through Pathein City.
Myanmar’s rice exports to the neighbouring countries can enhance the livelihood of the farmers and create business opportunities for related businesses. This achievement in Pathein city can also strengthen the tripartite relationship between the state, farmers and entrepreneurs for ensuring A sustainable market and export promotion.
More than 20,000 tonnes of rice have been sent to Bangladesh by October, according to the ministry of commerce of Myanmar, after the MoU in September, 2022.
According to this MoU, Bangladesh agreed to buy 250,000 tonnes of rice and 50,000 tonnes of parboiled rice from Myanmar between 2022 and 2027.
Since September 7, 2017, Myanmar and Bangladesh have engaged in rice trade under a government-to-government pact. That MoU stated that Bangladesh has agreed to buy Myanmar’s white rice (250,000 tonnes) and parboiled rice (50,000 tonnes) till September 2022.
Myanmar sent 100,000 tonnes of rice to Bangladesh each in 2017 for the first time and 2021 for the second time, as per the sales contract.
The ministry of commerce has granted an export license for 191,700 tonnes of rice for Bangladesh according to the agreement.
As per the MoU 48 companies, under the supervision of the Myanmar Rice Federation, are to export 200,000 tonnes to Bangladesh with Chinese yuan payment between October 2022 and January 2023.
Myanmar and Bangladesh inked another MoU in September, 2022, according to which Bangladesh agreed to buy 250,000 tonnes of white rice and 50,000 tonnes of parboiled from Myanmar between 2022 and 2027.
Myanmar plans to export a total of 200,000 tonnes of rice to Bangladesh under a G-to-G agreement. The first shipment was directly made by the Ayeyarwady International Industrial Port (AIIP) in Pathein of Ayeyarwady Region, and 10,565 tonnes of rice out of the targeted 200,000 tonnes has been exported from November 2-22.
Deputy director U Tun Tun from the consumer affairs department commented on the benefits to farmers and businessmen due to direct export, said there was an instruction to export 20,000 tonnes as the first batch and 40,000 tonnes as the second batch, totalling 60,000 tonnes.
The respective ministry and export companies are working together to ensure the quality of export rice and fast shipping. Rice mills in Ayeyarwady Region are running to export good-quality rice, it is learnt.
Myanmar has conveyed about 110,000 tonnes of rice to Bangladesh under the government-to-government pact, according to the ministry of commerce.
Following the contract, white rice (ATAP) GPCT Broken STX variety will be delivered.
Since September 2017, Myanmar and Bangladesh have engaged in rice trade under the government-to-government pact. That MoU stated that Bangladesh has agreed to buy Myanmar’s white rice (250,000 tonnes) and parboiled rice (50,000) tonnes between 2017 and September 2022.
According to the government-to-government, Bangladesh has been purchasing Myanmar’s white rice. The country has shipped rice directly from Pathein Industrial City since November 2022. In the first week of December, 2022, 5,260 tonnes of rice were loaded onto the two ships in the second batch and the MCL-12 ship carrying 2,650 tonnes of rice departed in the morning of December 8 from the Ayeyarwady International Industrial Port AIIP in Pathein Industrial City, Ayeyarwady Region, to Bangladesh.
Earlier, Myanmar conveyed rice to Bangladesh through Yangon Port and Thilawa terminals. In the first batch in November 2022, 10,565 tonnes of Aemahta rice (five-per-cent broken) were shipped by four ships directly from Pathein city to Bangladesh. The country delivered 2,610 tonnes on December 1, 2022 and 2,650 tonnes on December 8, 2022, in the second batch, totalling 5,260 tonnes. On December 7, 2022, the MCL-18 ship arrived at the Ayeyarwady International Industrial Port and further exports are to be undertaken.
Myanmar’s white rice direct delivery from Ayeyarwady Region to Bangladesh was an accumulated 15,825 tonnes, with 10,565 tonnes in the first batch and 5,260 in the second.
“The main export item from Pathein Port is rice. If Bangladesh buys corn in addition to rice, there is an adequate supply of corn in the region. Myanmar has indicated readiness to export corn depending on the market demand. The rice shipment for the second batch has finished. We plan to export agricultural products from Ayeyarwady Region to foreign trading partners. For the initial stage, efforts are being made to complete the rice shipment first,” said U Tun Tun, deputy director of the Ayeyarwady Region consumers affairs department.
The writer is an independent researcher based in Canada. She is interested in the Bangladesh and Rohingya refugee affairs.
(Views expressed by the author are their own. TheNewsMill could not independently verify the ‘facts’ mentioned).