South East Asia has experienced a rapid growth in the production of natural rubber over the past decade. With demand set to outstrip supply by around 10 per cent by 2020, the industry is expanding to new territories, as Global Witness previously highlighted in its ‘Rubber Barons’ report. Myanmar is the latest target for the rubber industry, but instead of the government promoting much-needed investment in its own farmers, private companies have been given priority to buy up large swathes of land for rubber plantations.
Foreign investment in Myanmar is increasing with the political reform process, but as Myanmar becomes more locked-in to global markets, this intensification of agricultural investment promoted on such a large-scale could lead to a surge of foreign investment in land, bringing the same negative impacts to Myanmar that it has elsewhere. This could not only destroy one of the most important remaining ecosystems in the world but harm an already vulnerable population.
Land deals don’t need to happen this way – there’s masses of evidence to show that investing and supporting smallholder farmers brings lasting economic, social and environmental benefits.
This briefing paper highlights the benefits of investing in small-scale agriculture and rubber production and makes recommendations for the Government of Myanmar as to how best support and protect its farmers, including the establishment of a strong national land policy.