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Abstract

Pulse exports from Myanmar have grown into a $1 billion export industry in the 25 years since liberalization. As the first major agricultural sector to be liberalized in 1988, pulses offered uniquely attractive returns to both smallholder farmers and traders in the early years following government decontrol. By 1991, pulses had surpassed rice to become Myanmar’s most valuable agricultural export. This paper examines how private sector traders in Myanmar managed this exceptional feat, despite financial sanctions, acute limitations on all forms of communication and information flows and with the weakest rural infrastructure in South East Asia --- all hangovers from Myanmar’s three decades of international isolation and underinvestment in agriculture. Yet critical barriers remain that could eventually undermine Myanmar’s global competitiveness. Field interviews with key value chain actors in Myanmar between February and August 2014 form the basis for this market diagnostic.

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