YANGON, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar has planned to expand cultivation of paddy in the present fiscal year of 2008-09, which started in April, to produce rice sufficient for the country's people in the wake of growing population, a leading local weekly, the Yangon Times, reported Thursday.
It is projected to grow 8.26 million hectares in the fiscal year to yield 31.59 million tons of rice to meet the demand of a population of 56.5 million.
In the just-ended fiscal year of 2007-08, Myanmar grew 8.1 million hectares, generating 30.02 million tons, according to official statistics.
Myanmar's rice export amounted to 18,700 tons in the first half(April-September) of 2007-08, picking up to a figure more than the whole year of 2006-07 which registered 14,500 tons, the latest statistics also show.
The country's rice export had been down from 180,000 tons in 2005-06 and from 182,000 tons in 2004-05.
Myanmar has placed emphasis on the development of agriculture to ensure self-sufficiency of rice first and then surplus for export.
According to an earlier local report, the country has allowed 22 private companies so far this year to export a total of 400,000tons of surplus rice as part of its plan to stabilize the rice market domestically.
The surplus rice, granted for private export, are produced from three divisions of Bago, Sagaing and Ayeyawaddy.
Several other companies have also been buying such rice from farmers for export since the beginning of this year, it said.
The country's per capita rice consumption stands 510 kilograms (kg) per year which are for rural people, while 408 kg for urban people. The annual consumption of rice by the entire country people reached over 17 million tons.
With over 70 percent of Myanmar's population being engaged in agricultural undertakings, the sector represents the mainstay of the country's economy, contributing 50.1 percent to the national economy and achieving an average annual growth rate of 9.8 percent during the past five years, statistics reveal.