Aquaculture and Food Security in Rural Myanmar

I work with a wonderful and brilliant team on a USAID funded project in Myanmar. Errm… I mean Burma… (The U.S. government still resists the name change). The team recently wrote a paper on the aquaculture sector in Myanmar. It is a fascinating read, if you’re into this kind of thing… Although I’m not an official co-author of the report, I did copy edit the entire document prior to it’s official release.

Read the whole report here: Aquaculture in Transition: Value Chain Transformation, Fish and Food Security in Myanmar

Here are some take-aways:

1. Fish is super important to Myanmar’s food and nutrition security.

  • Fish is the cheapest form of animal protein in the country.
  • Fish accounts for 50% of animal source food consumed.
  • Fish represents an average food budget share in Myanmar equal to that of rice.

2. Marketed aquaculture products (i.e. farmed fish) are largely inaccessible to the poorest in Myanmar.

  • Aquaculture supplies only 21% of total fish intake.
  • The remaining 79% is supplied by capture fisheries (i.e. fishing with nets in rivers, lakes, and the ocean).

3. Productivity of Myanmar’s aquaculture sector is relatively low

  • Reported yields in Lower Myanmar have a mean of 3.7 t/ha, with a minimum of 1 t/ha and a maximum of 10 t/ha
  • Compare that with Andhra Pradesh, India (a comparable region) which has a mean of 9 t/ha.
  • Myanmar’s production level roughly equals that of India’s Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s.

4. Official statistics of Myanmar’s aquaculture sector are flawed.

  • Production figures are inflated by roughly 160%.
  • Pond use for aquaculture is underreported by roughly 30%.

5. Myanmar’s aquaculture sector is dominated by large firms.

  • An antiquated land use regulation, constraining smallholder farmers from transitioning their farm from rice paddies to fish ponds, still remains from the centralized military regime of the 1980s.
  • While credit systems exist in rural areas, it is generally accepted that smallholder farmers have limited access to formal credit markets.
  • There is room for growth in Myanmar’s aquaculture sector through expanding the production of smallholder fish farms.

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