Aung Kaung Zaw | DMG
22 May, Manaung
The last day to repay the previous monsoon season’s agricultural loans in Arakan State has been deferred to May 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a second extension of the original April 15 repayment date, said U Pyone Naing, manager of the Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank in Manaung Township.

“We put off the last date of the repayment to May 15 for this year, but we postponed again to the end of May,” he said.

The government disbursed loans of K150,000 (US$103) per acre of farmland and farmers must pay a fine of K1 per K100 that has not been repaid within the designated period, said U Pyone Naing.

The government disbursed loans for 25,910 acres of farmland in Manaung Township in 2019, according to the Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank in Manaung.

U Khin Maung Than, a farmer, said farmers are facing difficulty repaying agricultural loans due to a combination of lower crop revenues and the coronavirus factor.

“The yield of the crops is not good this year. We cannot do other jobs to get income because of COVID-19. And we cannot borrow money from others to repay the agricultural loan. We do not know what to do. The situation is very tough,” he said.

With agricultural loans for the 2020 monsoon paddy season being disbursed since April 15, only just over 6.3% of farmers who took loans for 2019 have repaid their debt so far in Manaung Township, according to the Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank.

Farmers from northern Arakan State in March sought an exemption for repaying their agricultural loans from the government because their farming saw losses due to clashes in the region.

U Kyaw Zan, chair of the Arakan State Farmers’ Union, said the government had yet to undertake any kind of survey to assess the challenges facing farmers in Arakan State due to conflict.

The amount of farmland where farmers could not cultivate or harvest crops in 2019 was about 50,000 acres, according to the Arakan State Farmers’ Union.

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