Country Profiles

National Industry

Myanmar, an agro-based country, is home to 55 million people2 . The agricultural sector, including livestock and fishery, contributes to 30 to 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and 20 to 30 percent of Myanmar’s total export earnings (World Bank, 2014). In terms of employment, approximately 70% of labour force is reportedly engaging in agricultural activities and dependent directly on agriculture for their income.

The livestock sector contributes about 20% of the agricultural GDP. It helps improving the lives of many people in Myanmar, including people who are involved in raising animals, providing inputs and services, and involved in downstream activities including trading, slaughtering, processing and consumption.

Cattle and buffaloes are mainly raised by smallholders for draught purposes in mixed crop-livestock systems. Beef consumption is not common in Burmese culture. Therefore, beef cattle farming are still in an initial stage, and very few beef cattle farms can be found in some cities. Draft cattle and buffaloes are also used for milk by small-scale dairy farmers in some regions, particularly in Mandalay and Sagaing.

The government policies currently focus on cattle for draft power – restrictions on slaughtering below 16 years of age, and live cattle exports. However, unofficial exports live cattle from Myanmar have increased notably recently due to a growing demand from China and Vietnam markets.

Cross-border price differentials played a crucial role in shaping the cattle trade patterns. Live cattle price inside Myanmar is significantly lower than neighbouring countries. Reportedly a cow/buffalo bought for K500,000 in Dry Zone could be resold in border areas at 2 to 4 times higher price (Thein, 2014).

2 2014 Census

The statistics3 in Table 1 provide overview of the cattle and beef industry in Myanmar. Based on the data from the LBVD, the country had 14.99 million cattle head (including draught and dairy cattle) in 2013. The turnoff numbers were relatively low compared to other ASEAN countries, at 0.27 million head (annual growth of 1.3% on average). The turnoff figures are deemed understated as they don’t record illegal slaughtering. However, the low turnoff levels are explained by the fact that Myanmar people do not normally eat beef (and buffalo meat) as they assume that cattle and buffalo are benefactors of their livelihood. There has been a high growth in the official figures on cattle meat over the period 2000-2013 (annual growth of 11.7% on average). However, these official figures are deemed overstated and rather unreliable given the country’s poor statistical capacity and the use of outdated methodologies (Myint, 2009). This is the result of several factors including the government having limited control over parts of the territory, limited resources for data gathering and analysis, and data being manipulated for internal and external purposes (Dapice et al., 2012).

Table 1: Key facts about the industry 2000-2013

Source: adapted from LBVD (2014).

3 Data is provided by Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD). Cattle number represents the opening stock at the beginning of each fiscal year. Data on buffaloes and buffalo meat is not included.

The cattle industry in Myanmar is still at the early stage. There are a number of drivers that influence the industry development. It is estimated that GDP growth was at 4.6% for the period 2002-2010 (ADB, 2012), rising to 6.3% in 2013 (USAID, 2013). This upward trajectory is likely to continue as a result of improved macro-economic reforms. In addition, the removal of international economic sanctions on Myanmar in 2012, and the increased demand for cattle products from neighbouring countries provide significant opportunities for many rural and peri-urban people to increase returns from their cattle farming. However, Myanmar imposes restrictions on slaughtering below 16 years of age, and on live cattle exports. Therefore, live cattle price inside Burma is significantly lower than neighbouring countries leading to unofficial exports. Industry groups are pressuring for policy to change, and this is likely to happen in 2015 after the election. If export policies are liberalized, Myanmar has huge potentials to develop backgrounding and fattening systems based on local and imported cattle as the country has a vast land area which could be used as grazing of animals.

Figure 1 indicates that the cattle number increased gradually from 11 million head in 2000 to 15 million head in 2013. The slaughter number4, collected by the township development committee (municipal) through licensees basing on slaughter numbers and slaughter taxes, fluctuated over the period 2000-2013. The official slaughter number peaked at 377,004 head in 2011, and then dropped to 271,250 head in 2013. However, official figures did not record illegal slaughtering, which accounts for 10-15% of the official number, according to the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD).

The estimated beef production was based on the slaughter number, local consumption and export. Cattle meat production has risen steadily from 71,000 tonnes in 2000 to around 300,000 tonnes in 2013 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: cattle production in Myanmar


4 Data are reported from Township LBVD office, State/Region office to LBVD Head office

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