Private merchant companies served as the instrument of expansion - these were the English East-Indian company (1600) and the Dutch East-Indian company (1602), having gained monopolistic rights from their governments to have trade relations with Asian countries. By the middle of the 16th century, Portuguese have been almost pushed away from their Asian possessions, while the English and the Dutch became masters of the biggest territory of Southern and Eastern Asia. (Wilson)
'Asian countries have always been known as the main producers and exporters of rice and during the colonial era Burma became the main world center of cultivation and exporting rice.' (Frank, 2002, p. 261)
At the beginning of the 19th century Burma attracted the English not only by its strategic location, but by its raw materials, and the abundance of rice and teak. After the second English - Burma war of 1852-53, the English gained the control on the Lower Burma, which was hardly populated at the time, and only 5% of the land, suitable for cultivation, was used for agriculture. This very region was going to become the new granary of the whole Burma, and thus, a big economic center. (Frank, 2002, p. 259)
The English made huge investments into the development of the region, they built roads, performed reforms and innovations, the laws, concerning land taxes and the use of the land, were changed. Immigrants from India, Upper Burma and other countries were attracted by the new beneficial conditions of work there. But for twenty years (1852-1872) the flow of immigrants equaled only 1 million people, which was evidently less than the English had expected, plus the settlers didn't stay at one place for long. At the end of the 19th century there was the lack of working force in Burma, its cost was 2-3 times higher than this of India, which caused import of techniques and machinery together with the cheap Indian working force. (Frank, 2002, p. 240)
In the middle of the 1870s as the cause of English agricultural policy, the situation changed: big territories were constantly worked, and at that time the Lower, and not the Upper, 'Burma became the rice granary; there was a rapid growth of raw rice production, which caused the increase of the number of rice mills. It is already at the end of 1850s, that the English began modernization of Burma's rice industry.' (Twanghmung, 2003, p. 300) In 1859 the first steam rice mill was put into operation in the Basin. In 1867 there appeared two automatic rice mills in Akyaba and Rangoon. By the end of 1870 there were 20 rice mills in Burma, only two of which were producing the white rice, others being concentrated at rice-cargo production. By 1894 there were already 54 rice mills in Burma, twenty-one of them being located in Rangoon, while others 26 were situated not far from Akyaba.
"The industry of Burma at that time looked more like small primitive production. The most developed were the extractive and food branches. But during the era of English colonialism, Burma became the main producer and exporter of rice in the world." (Brown, 2005, p. 28)
There are two different opinions as for the influence of the British colonialism on the rice industry of Burma. One of them states, that the influence of Britain was beneficial for the population of Burma, making it a progressive and industrial country (Twanghmung, 2003