The Emerging Quiet Revolution in Myanmar’s Aquaculture Chain

Ben Belton, Aung Hein, Kyan Htoo, L. Seng Kham, Aye Sandar Phyoe, Thomas Reardon. 2017. The Emerging Quiet Revolution in Myanmar’s Aquaculture Chain. Aquaculture, June 21, 2017

HIGHLIGHTS

  • We report findings from the largest study of aquaculture value chains ever conducted in Myanmar.
  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find rapid emergence of large numbers of small and medium commercial fish farms.
  • Small/medium farms have emerged alongside the still-dominant large farms, to create an aquaculture sector with a dualistic structure.
  • The great majority of the sector serves the domestic market; only a small share of farmed fish are exported.
  • We find a “quiet revolution” in the off-farm components of the value chain, with rapid emergence of small and medium enterprises upstream from farms, supplying seed and feed.
  • SMEs have also proliferated in the midstream of the value chain, after the farmgate, in wholesale and logistics.

ABSTRACT

Myanmar is among the world’s leading aquaculture producers. But less is known about its fish farm sector than any other major aquaculture-producing country in Asia. The literature has characterized aquaculture in Myanmar as strongly export oriented, and dominated by very large farms. Past literature had it that small-scale fish farms were almost non-existent due to land use regulations that were thought to have blocked the conversion of paddy land to ponds. The past literature had it that technologies of the big farms were ‘traditional’ and extensive. We tested the conventional wisdoms, treating them as hypotheses; we did so by undertaking the largest (and first survey-based) aquaculture value chain study ever conducted in Myanmar.

Our findings are as follows. 1) The great majority of farmed fish produced in Myanmar is sold to the fast growing domestic market; only a small share is exported. 2) Although large fish farms dominate in terms of total pond area, a small/medium farm segment has emerged quickly. This has given rise to a “dualistic” fish farm sector, with many small/medium farmers and nurseries alongside large farms. 3) The take-off of small/medium farms has been helped by the “informal relaxation” of restrictions prohibiting the conversion of paddy land to ponds in the main fish farming zones. 4) The upstream segments (feed and seed) of the supply chain have grown fast as have the midstream segments (wholesale and logistics). Most of this growth is due to a “Quiet Revolution” driven by private investments of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 5) Some farms (small as well as large) are intensifying their technologies, resulting in adoption of a mix of traditional more modern farm technologies.

KEYWORDS: Myanmar; Value chain; Farm size; Land use policy; Land tenure; Small and medium enterprises