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Burma. Wheat consumption is forecast to decrease in 2021 due to economic contraction and cash shortages post-coup

03.06.2021 12:25 "Agro Perspectiva" (Kyiv) Following are selected highlights from a report issued by a U.S.Department of Agriculture attache in The Rangoon, although Burmas staple food is rice, wheat-based foods are regularly consumed as fast food and snacks. As wheat consumption increased prior to COVID-19, Burmas wheat production remained flat and imports increased due to a lack of good local varieties and reduced competitiveness with imported wheat. Prior to the February 1, 2021military coup, the government had low interest in improving wheat production, but the Department of Agriculture Research had a few trials underway to select highyielding and drought-resistant varieties. Burma produces approximately 100,000metric tons (MT) and imports approximately 600,000MT of wheat grain to meet the local demand. Burma mainly imports wheat from Australia, the United States, Ukraine, Canada, and Moldova. Wheat imports have gradually increased since 2011due to growing demand for western foods derived from wheat flour, especially pasta, pizza, snacks, baked goods, and noodles.

Consumption Behavior Wheat derived food in Burma Burma mills wheat grain into flour to make wheat-based foods for human consumption and wheat bran for animal feed. Local wheat mills produce different types of wheat flour to make noodles, to be used in bakeries, and multipurpose wheat flour to make other traditional breakfast food. According to industry sources, 45percent of total wheat flour is utilized for making noodles, 35percent for the bakery sector,

and 20percent for general purposes such as wheat-derived breakfast foods. Consumption of these categories differ by income class and have evolved during COVID-19 and post-coup.

Noodles: Instant noodles, such as Mamee, Yum, Shin, and MAMA noodles are very popular among the lower and middle income class and are consumed as a light meal especially at night, often with an egg. Instant noodles are quick to prepare, cheap, easy to cook, available everywhere, and have a long shelf life. Throughout COVID-19 and following the coup, the demand for instant noodles increased for these reasons across all income classes. Some higher income consumers buy imported instant noodles from Korea, Japan, and Thailand, which are more costly than the locally-produced instant noodles. Burmese people also love to eat wheat noodle as a breakfast noodle salad, traditional coconut noodles, and Chinese fried noodles.

Fast food: Before COVID-19, fast foods such as burgers, sandwiches, fried chicken, and pizza were very popular among younger people from the middle- and high-income classes due to an increasing preference for Western cuisine and rapid economic development which increased consumer buying power. Fast foods from U.S. and other international chains are available within or near supermarkets and department stores and are seen as a good choice for the family during shopping hours. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the consumption of those items decreased due to lockdown orders and closure of many fast-food shops. However, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, food delivery services, such as Food Panda and Yangon Door to Door, and various promotions helped the fast food sector recover somewhat.

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