By Myat Noe Oo | Thursday, 28 April 2016
Unseasonal storms last week that killed at least eight and destroyed thousands of houses have dashed the hopes of mango farmers by destroying swathes of farmland just as the export season begins for Myanmar’s most sought-after fruit.
A Yangon mango seller oversees a market stall.
Some farmers had started selling their mangos to the local market and overseas while others are still harvesting when the storms hit central Myanmar. The export season typically runs from late April to mid-July, yet many farmers are now left counting their losses, traders said.
Traders who sell mangos to China said the weather is the worst it has been in a century, adding that fruit has been destroyed and the market is unstable. Damaged fruits will not fetch good prices, they said.
Sai Minthu Naung, a fruit dealer and owner of Khwar Nyo in Muse township on the Myanmar-China border, said, “This is a terrible situation. We faced weather disasters in the past, but this is the worst yet, and all the fruit that was still at the farms has been destroyed. Mango season is just beginning and the change in weather has left the market cold.”
The storm ripped roofs from houses in Mandalay, Sagaing and Magwe regions and Shan and Chin states, while pictures and television footage showed huge hailstones crashing onto flooded streets and clattering off metal roofs as residents rushed for shelter.
The damage to mango farms will impact the entire supply chain, said Sai Minthu Naung.
“This won’t just hurt farmers, it will hurt us all. Farmers will have to sell their fruit cheaply, so brokers will get less money, and so will truck drivers. Buyers will lose out too because they will have lower- quality mangos.”
Ko Kyaw Htut who farms mangos in Mandalay Region’s Patheingyi township lost all his investment in the storm. Around 40 percent of his crop was destroyed and 30pc of the remaining fruit on his trees is likely to go to waste.
He had invested only in mangos, so will pick the remaining fruit at the end of this month and sell it to traders.
“We have lost all our money because we focused on mangos. Now the time for growing the fruit has finished. We only had a few days to pick the fruit, which is the main produce for my township,” he said.
Farmers were trying hard this year to grow fruits to a standard suitable for export and had worked systematically.
Earlier this year the agriculture ministry said it was preparing farmers for an audit that would demonstrate the adherence of Myanmar’s famous sein ta lone(diamond) mangos to international food safety standards.
These are the most popular variety of mangos for export, mostly grown in Mandalay Region and southern Shan State.
Farmers had been briefed about the importance of keeping fruit free from heavy metals, of not using too much pesticide and insecticide, and of taking safety precautions.
Yet the unexpected storms laid all these preparations to waste, undoing all the good work done by farmers, Ko Kyaw Htut said.
In Mandalay Region, farmers have responded by cutting out the middleman and taking the produce directly to Muse township, in order to sell directly to China in the hope of reducing their losses, he said.