Farmers in Myanmar’s Shan state have complained that their businesses are being undercut by cheaper potatoes smuggled in from nearby China, causing them serious financial losses.
Potatoes are prohibited from regular border trade under measures to protect local growers, but Chinese traders are still able to export them illegally into Myanmar, prompting farmers to urge authorities to take measures to stop the activity.
Potato farmers want the government to shut down the illegal Chinese potato imports to Myanmar, said Aung Chan Aye, a potato trader at Yangon’s Bayint Naung Wholesale Centre.
Many Burmese say they prefer Chinese potatoes because they are better quality and about 10 percent less expensive than those grown in Myanmar.
Half of the more than 90,000 acres under potato cultivation in Myanmar are in 21 townships in southern Shan state, and especially in Naungtayar, Kalaw, Nyaungshwe, Langhko, and Taunggyi townships.
Farmers in Shan State say Myanmar authorities must enforce regulations prohibiting the illegal entry of potatoes from China because they cannot compete and will face greater financial strife and a possible loss of livelihood.
The current price of potatoes is 600-650 kyats (U.S. 42-46 cents) per viss, a unit of measurement equal to 3.6 pounds, which yields a profit of only 100 kyats (U.S. 7 cents) for growers, said Khun San Oo, a potato farmer in Naungtayar township.
But illegally imported China potatoes sell for about 500-550 kyats per viss.
“This is only about a 50-kyat difference, but for thousands of viss, the difference is huge,” he told RFA. “If Chinese potatoes continue to enter Myanmar, we will be in grave trouble.”
Myanmar farmers also say they cannot compete with Chinese technology which allows Chinese growers produce better potatoes more efficiently than their counterparts.
“Chinese potatoes are different from those grown in Myanmar,” said potato seller Aung Chan Aye.
“Chinese [potatoes] are more beautiful in color and larger in size. Customers prefer them,” he said, adding that Chinese traders also don’t have to pay Myanmar tax on their shipments since they are exporting illegally.
RFA could not reach the Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce for comment.
Soe Nyunt Lwin, Shan state’s minister for finance and planning, said that the list of items permitted for border trade does not contain potatoes from China.
“Chinese potatoes are not officially allowed into Myanmar’s market,” he said. “We will see to that.”
Farmers in southern Shan state have complained to state officials in the past about the illegal potato imports in border trade areas undercutting their business and requested that they control the inflow.
Although state authorities pledged to control the sale of potatoes imported illegally into Myanmar as well as provide loans to farmers so they can buy agricultural machines and produce higher quality potatoes, the problem has continued.
Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Maung Maung Nyo. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.