Bamboo industry insiders call for greater promotion
MYANMAR’S struggling bamboo sector requires a big boost in both technical support and government promotion if the fledgling industry is to one day formalise and get off the ground, industry experts say.
Speaking at a workshop in Yangon on September 18 to mark World Bamboo Day, U Kyaw Thu, chair of the Rattan and Bamboo Entrepreneurs Association, said there is a lot of potential for small business to emerge in the industry, as bamboo offers a cheaper alternative for use in flooring, walls or entire homes than many hardwood varieties. However, local producers suffer from a lack of technical knowledge, while little government promotion, means bamboo is cut from forested areas and not grown on an industrial scale, he said.
“Myanmar people don’t have the knowledge to ensure a healthy bamboo industry and they also don’t understand the market,” he said. “People are more interested in timber and other hardwood, that they consider more valuable than bamboo, but bamboo is cheaper than these products,” he said.
In an effort to discourage bamboo cultivation in forested areas, the government should encourgae bamboo farming in specific areas on an industrial scale, as they do in parts of China, U Kyaw Thu said. More can be done to promote the benefits of bamboo to consumers, he added.
“If the government supports growing bamboo in a specific area, in one district, people will cultivate it and small to big industries that produce different products from bamboo will also develop in this area,” he said. “If we use this model, there will be no waste product and we can also help control deforestation.”
Speaking on the conference sidelines, U Nyi Nyi Kyaw, a director general at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, said bamboo is being considered as part of the government’s policy discussions, but the details are yet to be determined.
“For making local products, current practices are okay, but for producing for export we need greater technology for a sustainable industry that can achieve international standards,” he said.
The industry is working with the International Rattan and Bamboo Network based in China to determine how best to develop the sector, U Nyi Nyi Kyaw said.
From cultivation to product development, the entire supply chain needs support, said U Thuta Aung, country director of Business Innovation Facility, a UK-funded program designed to highlight problems in particular developing markets.
“If producers cultivate bamboo, they can make products with that bamboo so they will have a greater understanding of the raw material, which will lead to greater-quality products,” he said. “But now they cut bamboo from the forest, so they don’t make good-quality products.”
For now, the market is still in its infancy, but as other industries begin to grow, people want to know more about the different materials they have available to them, said a salesperson from Asia Green Gold company.
“Right now our main focus is on floors, but recently we have started to make bamboo cupboards, chairs and other furniture products,” he said.
‘Myanmar people don’t have the knowledge to ensure a healthy bamboo industry.’
U Kyaw Thu Bamboo Entrepreneurs Association