Myanmar exports rice as cyclone victims suffer
New York (PTI): While the international community was rushing aid to Myanmar for survivors of the last weeks devastating cyclone, its government was exporting tons of rice through its main port, a media report said.
In the report from Thilawa in Myanmar, the Los Angeles Times said four of the five berths at the port for oceangoing container vessels were empty but a crane was loading large white sacks filled with rice into a freighter.
It quoted drivers of at least ten transport trucks waiting to deliver several tons of rice that were destined for Bangladesh.
The regime, the paper said, has a monopoly on rice exports and had said this week that it planned to meet commitments to sell rice, whose price has reached record high in the world market, to countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, even though Myanmar's main rice-producing region suffered the worst damage from the cyclone.
The storm caused massive destruction in the Irrawaddy River delta, where farmers are now desperate for food.
As rice was loaded onto the freighter, people in nearby villages were quoted as saying that the authorities had handed out rations of rotting rice, apparently from ruined stocks in the port's massive warehouse.
The storm soaked about 40 per cent of the stored rice, worth millions of dollars, said the chief driver who, the paper said, did not want to be identified.
India, Vietnam, China and Cambodia had curbed rice exports this year to ensure adequate supplies for their people amid a mounting world food crisis.
The Myanmar government said on Tuesday that nearly 23,000 people had died and 42,000 were missing.