RANGOON — Each morning the floor of the Bayintnaung commodity exchange center in northern Rangoon is jammed with traders and middlemen and buyers looking for the latest prices and deals for some of Burma’s agricultural produce. Famously Burma was once the world’s biggest rice exporter, a position long-lost due to the decades of economic mismanagement under the country’s socialist rule and military dictatorship. The government has high-profile ambitions to retake that top spot, but here at the Bayintnaung exhange, the trade is mostly in matpe and mung bean and chickpea. These beans and pulses might be lower-profile than their rice counterpart, but are nonetheless a vital cash crop for some of the tens of millions of Burmese dependent on agriculture. “Many people are often surprised to hear that farmers make more money growing beans and pulses than they do from rice,” says Dr Myint Oo, who sits on the commodity exchange’s executive committee.
RANGOON — If you’ve been to the Ho Chi Minh Museum and nearby mausoleum in Hanoi, Rangoon’s Drugs Elimination Museum has a familiar feel during Burma’s monsoon season, when a humid grayness hangs over the three-story building—a sweatier Rangoon version of Hanoi’s hoary and drizzly December days.