Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Strategy for Myanmar

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The productive capacity of Myanmar soils is an increasing concern. Many years of poor agriculture and land management practices have led to serious land degradation issues. There is increased awareness that achievement of the GOM’s national five-year plan targets for agriculture is threatened by the declining quality of Myanmar’s agricultural soils. Agricultural transformation is targeted in the MOALI strategic plan, with emphasis on the rapid expansion of modern agricultural technologies. Focus areas include improved use of high-quality, high-yielding variety seeds, appropriate high-quality fertilizers, and crop protection products, along with farm mechanization and improved water management. Agriculture and related product/commodity-specific strategic plans are in various stages of completion to ensure that technology advances are appropriate to the Myanmar cultural, social, and agro-economic context. Well-integrated into each of the strategic plans are measures to mitigate risks linked to negative environmental consequences (including climate change) that may be associated with modern agricultural technologies. Agriculture sector performance in Myanmar is highly dependent upon soil quality. An adequate supply of the 17 essential plant nutrients, primarily available to crops through the soils, is needed for optimum yields. Soils have an extensive ecological structure with living organisms and characteristics that impact moisture availability, crop nutrient supply, and physical support for crop growth. Organic matter is a key component of soils and directly impacts the yield capacity of soils. The living organisms in the soil continually break down minerals and organic matter to fortify the nutrient content of the soil. Over time, harvested crops such as rice remove far more nutrients that can be supplied by soil ecosystems. While fallow periods allow for some natural replenishment of soil nutrients, continuous cropping of annual and multiple crops per year leads to rapid depletion of soil nutrients and, unless residues are left in the field, depletion of organic matter as well. Soil nutrient restoration can be accomplished to a limited extent through application of organic materials, such as crop residue, animal manure, and green manure. Application of biological materials may also be effective in improving crop nutrient recovery from the atmosphere and/or the soil. However, it is only chemical or inorganic fertilizers that can deliver the high levels of essential nutrients needed in modern, high-yield agriculture with continuous cropping. Inorganic fertilizers contain various (often very high) levels of essential nutrients. 4 Such high nutrient values allow for farmers to deliver the recommended levels of nutrients to soils and crops without overburdening physical delivery systems. Further, the cost per unit of nutrient in high analysis fertilizers is generally quite low vis-à-vis nutrient values available in other commercial materials and manures. For the foreseeable future, there will continue to be a heavy reliance on inorganic fertilizers to support sustainable improvement in crop yields. 5 However, despite the benefits of using inorganic fertilizers, it is also critically important that researchers and other stakeholders in Myanmar stay alert to new opportunities that will lead to farming systems that are more mindful of the natural landscape and ecological resources. Although Myanmar has had a long history of low fertilizer use, the fertilizer market has expanded rapidly since 2008. While data are limited, it is estimated that during the past decade, the fertilizer market in Myanmar has grown at a compound growth rate of 10-15% per year to about 1.6 million metric tons (t) in 2016. Despite the recent growth in demand, the intensity of fertilizer use in Myanmar is only about 25% of the fertilizer use level globally (fertilizer use per hectare of agricultural land). The current fertilizer use practices also result in unbalanced nutrient applications, with an N:P:K use ratio of 6.5:1.6:1. One of the key ways to improve fertilizer use is to enhance farmer knowledge of the specific crop and soil nutrient needs and the fertilizer products (nutrient grades/formulations) that will best match those nutrient needs. Choosing which fertilizer to use is often one of the most important decisions a farmer has to make. However, Myanmar farmers have limited knowledge of modern agricultural technologies, including fertilizers. Additionally, no top-down recommendation currently exists in Myanmar for fertilizer based on crops and agro-ecological zones. Soil testing, which is essential to improving soil nutrient management, is not widely done. Therefore, for those farmers who do use fertilizers, recommendations from their neighbors and/or agro-input dealers are a major influencing factor in their own decisions. Unfortunately, local agro-input dealers also have limited knowledge about fertilizer products and their efficient utilization. Private sector presence in the Myanmar fertilizer market has grown rapidly with the enactment of the Fertilizer Law in 2002 (revised in 2015). Fertilizer supply is based on the domestic manufacture of ammonia/urea (by government-owned and -operated factories) and imports, with imports accounting for about 80-90% of supply. The private sector is responsible for all fertilizer imports (valued at more than U.S. $300 million in 2016) and domestic marketing through a growing dealer network comprising more than 5,000 licensed dealers. The dealer network extends to all key agricultural areas. In addition to official marketing channels, “unofficial” fertilizer imports from neighboring countries do sometimes occur. Fertilizer prices are based upon market conditions, heavily influenced by global fertilizer market prices (due to the fact that 80-90% of supply is based upon imports), logistics costs, and competition. Fertilizer quality is a widespread concern in Myanmar as most stakeholders (farmers, government officials, and many in the private sector) have low confidence that the fertilizers they have access to are of a consistently high quality. 6 The Land Use Division (LUD) within the Department of Agriculture provides fertilizer inspection and analytical services to ensure quality assurance. Due to capacity limitations and other factors, its effectiveness in quality assurance is limited. The Fertilizer Law (amended in 2015) provides for the policy and regulatory-related environment that underpins the Myanmar fertilizer market. In general, provisions of the Law have been effective in stimulating private sector investment and protecting the interests of Myanmar farmers. However, some elements of the Law and existing fragments of implementing regulations are deficient in terms of completeness and clarity based upon international standards. As a result, application of the Law in accordance with its intended governing role is (to some extent) compromised. MOALI is dedicated to improving agriculture sector performance in general and (in particular) achieving an orderly transformation of agriculture. Improved application of appropriate agricultural technologies, based upon strengthened public sector systems and expanded private sector investment in input and crop markets, including agribusiness, is targeted. An analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis) reveals that Myanmar is on a positive track to achieve improved fertilizer use management with attention to balanced fertilizer use achieved through sound recommendations and improved knowledge flows. Expansion of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) systems with increased farmer use of organic and on-farm waste materials in association with inorganic fertilizers is key to maintaining quality, fertile soils in Myanmar. The vision of the Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Strategy for Myanmar is: Myanmar farmers properly applying ISFM concepts in agricultural production systems with a private sector market-driven fertilizer value chain working with the public sector to provide high-quality products available, accessible, and affordable to farmers to build and maintain soil fertility that will underpin a highly productive and mechanized agriculture sector. To achieve the vision, four key objectives are established. They are: • Improve the fertility status of Myanmar soils to support sustainable improvement in agricultural productivity. • Enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the fertilizer value chain to improve farmers’ knowledge of, access to, and use of high-quality fertilizer products. • Increase farmers’ economic returns from fertilizer use. • Reduce adverse impacts of fertilizer on the natural environment, ecological resources, and climate change. Achievement of the objectives entails interventions in 10 thematic areas that will contribute to improved soil fertility and fertilizer management effectiveness and efficiency at all stakeholder levels.\ Theme 1. Ensure sustainable soil fertility improvement  Modernize national soils maps.  Develop fertilizer recommendations that are tailored to specific crops and agro-ecological zones.  Accelerate provision of soil and plant testing services with an emphasis on improving farmers’ use of soil and plant testing.  Improve fertilizer use efficiency.  Strengthen research programs with an emphasis on ISFM technologies.  Strengthen knowledge of the potential impacts of biological materials in yield improvement.  Expand and intensify stakeholder collaboration/information-sharing on soil fertility and fertilizer research. Theme 2. Ensure farmer access to information on soil fertility management  Strengthen the public sector’s role in technology transfer to farmers throughout Myanmar.  Encourage private sector companies to promote technology introduction and knowledge transfer to input dealers and farmers with “common” messaging.  Encourage non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide farmers with knowledge on soil fertility and fertilizers, either directly or indirectly through input supplier training.  Strengthen linkages between agriculture research and extension to further knowledge transfer to farmers. Theme 3. Emphasize the role of fertilizer use management in climatesmart agriculture  Adopt improved soil management practices – ISFM systems – with best management practices for inorganic fertilizers and utilization of organic materials to the maximum extent.  Improve water management through irrigation system rehabilitation and upgrades and expanded use of appropriate technologies. Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Strategy for Myanmar xii  Conserve natural resources, which are fundamental to sustainable agricultural production systems – sustaining soil productivity, limiting unnecessary deforestation, and limiting unnecessary crop production on marginal lands.  Reduce nutrient losses – improve fertilizer product selection, proper application (placement and timing) of fertilizers, conservation tillage where appropriate.  Mitigate impacts of fertilizer use and domestic fertilizer manufacturing and processing on the environment. Theme 4. Update and fortify the Fertilizer Law and associated implementing regulations  Continue the market-oriented policy for fertilizer, relying on private sector investment in fertilizer supply and domestic marketing.  Review and strengthen the Fertilizer Law and supporting legal instruments to achieve a modern international standard, comprehensive in scope and clear on all legislative elements.  Require registration of all agro-input dealers and sub-dealers as well as general merchandise retailers that engage in fertilizer purchase for resale.  Take all appropriate measures to effectively implement and enforce the Fertilizer Law. Theme 5. Ensure sustainable supply of high-quality fertilizers with improved farmer access  Fertilizer supply – continued supply through imports will contribute to supply system efficiencies.  Mid- to long-term (2022 and beyond) – monitor global fertilizer market situation and evaluate economic options for fertilizer sector investment vis-à-vis competing opportunities for natural gas demand.  Continue private sector-based system with advances in value-added processing to better support balanced fertilizer use.  Farmer groups and private sector cooperatives will stimulate development. Theme 6. Ensure high-quality fertilizers are consistently available in the market  Strengthen Land Use Division fertilizer inspection and laboratory analytical capacities, including protocols and methodologies. Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Strategy for Myanmar  Improve private sector import procurement systems to mitigate quality risks. Theme 7. Emphasize monitoring and strategic planning  Strengthen the availability of market information on fertilizer supply, farmer use, and prices to support monitoring and strategic planning.  Sensitize all stakeholders about fertilizer-related activities, particularly laws and regulations. Theme 8. Strengthen financial services  Improve farmers’ access to financing through fortified farmer loan programs administered by Myanmar Agriculture Development Bank (MADB) and Myanmar Livestock and Fisheries Development Bank (MLFDB).  Strengthen microfinance opportunities through formal service providers and NGOs to support farmer needs.  Extend financial services to agro-input dealers.  Continue to support contract farming and farmer groups (including farmer cooperatives). Theme 9. Fortify institutional and human capacity building at all levels in the fertilizer sector  Department of Agricultural Research.  Department of Agriculture/Agriculture Extension Division.  Department of Agriculture/Land Use Division  Yezin Agricultural University.  MOALI Agribusiness Information Unit.  Agro-input dealer network  Coordination. Theme 10. Strengthen post-harvest markets and improve farmer access to markets  Agribusiness linkages.  Infrastructure.  Gender empowerment. Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Strategy for Myanmar. The thematic focal areas are interrelated, yielding synergies that will contribute to improved soil nutrient management with increased attention to mitigating risks to adverse environmental consequences of modern agricultural production systems. Importantly, the Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Strategy is in proper alignment with the MOALI vision for agriculture. It is complementary to the other agriculture-related strategies. The rollout of the strategy will require a concerted effort from both the public and private sector and coordination will be a key to its success. Consideration should be given to establishing a coordinating body with public and private sector representation. Twelve actions are provided to implement the strategy covering technical, industry and policy actions, including the adoption of a site specific integrated soil fertility management system. It is proposed that this start as a pilot project within the five new Regional Research Centers that DAR is establishing jointly with DOA to implement the farming systems research approach.
Soil fertility, Fertilizers
MOALI and IFDC. 2018.Soil Fertility and Fertilizer Management Strategy for Myanmar, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.