Burmese - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Wet-rice cultivation dominates agricultural activity. Most of that crop is now consumed domestically because the export industry has shriveled under the centralized control of the military powers. Upland, rain-fed rice is common in Upper Burma above the 100-centimeter rain line, and in the hill country slash-and-burn agriculture (swidden agriculture rather than crop rotation) is practiced. Cotton, maize, peanuts, onions, and other crops are produced. Logging, especially of teak for export, is still an important industry. There is an active fishing industry in Burmese waters, and dried shrimp and fish are important components in the diet. Mining of rubies and the export of jade are successful industries. Drilling for and refining oil are on a small scale, hardly for export. Among Burmese handicrafts, lacquer ware is distinctive. Wood carving, stone sculpting, and brass casting are local industries. Tobacco, cheroots, and cigars are produced. There is a small livestock industry, some jute processing, and a little tin and tungsten mining. The economy, however, remains overwhelmingly agricultural and extractive.

In the sector of industry and mining, technology is slightly obsolete but appropriate; in agriculture, on the other hand, most of the technology is geared to the small rice producer. A wooden plow with metal share yoked to a pair of bullocks, the wooden-toothed harrow, the sickle, the metal-bladed hoe, a long knife, ropes and twine of various grasses, and the forked stick comprise the long-standing farming kit. Bamboo and wood items are ubiquitous, and iron and metal nearly so. Modern technology is represented by the sewing machine, the loudspeaker and amplifier, the battery-run transistor radio, some guns, and an occasional vehicle. In the cities an assortment of machines and vehicles dating from World War II predominates.


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