There is real potential to develop an organic farming market in Myanmar. This could boost the value of crops that are produced for export, and in turn boost the standard of living for farmers in the country.
As it stands, Myanmar’s farmers already use fewer chemical pesticides and fertilisers than many of the country’s neighbours. However, the sector is reluctant to definitively move into the organic market due to high costs of transport and infrastructure.
Organic is best
U Wann Tin owns Sein Le Oo Organic Farm, which produces organic mushrooms for export. He said: “Farmers here are aware of the dangers and are already avoiding the use of chemicals when planting fruits or vegetables.”
Organic foods must be free of artificial food additives and should be processed using natural methods where possible. This means avoiding chemical ripening, using genetically modified ingredients and food irradiation.
Better profit margins
Local farmers could maintain increased profit margins if they move into exporting organic goods. Japan, the US and Europe all have excellent markets for organic produce that Myanmar could break into.
At the moment, Thailand is one of the most important exporters of organic foods in this region of the world. However, they’re struggling to keep up with demand from developed countries as they just don’t have enough people in the sector.
Myanmar could step in to fill this gap and take advantage of the high demand for the organic produce. Other countries also have the land available for organic farming, including Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Higher production costs
Even with this demand there are only a few organic farming companies in Myanmar, due to the high cost of production. While farmers are fully aware of the potential dangers of using chemicals on crops, they are forced to do so to keep the goods fresh while they’re being transported to urban areas.
Not only is it more expensive to grow organic produce, it’s also more expensive to store and transport it. This had led Myanmar farmers to only produce small amounts of organic crops that can be sold locally.
Added to this, consumers within the country are not interested in the origin of their fruit and vegetables, as they are more concerned with the cost. All of these factors mean that the organic food market isn’t developed within Myanmar itself.
As well as the cost of production, storage and transportation, organic produce also must be certified before it can be sold overseas. Only three companies have obtained the certification from the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM).
Genius Shan Highlands Coffee produces only organic coffee and is recognised as a certified organic company by the Myanmar government and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Local farmers may already use fewer chemicals and therefore technically be producing organic goods, but without the certification they can’t sell overseas. Getting this certification is expensive. It can cost up to $2,500 to get the certification from the USDA and again from the European agency. This is simply out of the question for many Myanmar farmers.