Shan State tea hits the Ger­man mar­ket

The Myanmar Times - - Business - SU PHYO WIN su­phy­owin@mm­times.com

MYAN­MAR tea could be re­turn­ing to its days of in­ter­na­tional glory – with Ger­man help.

Pre­mium Tea Com­pany Tee Gschwend­ner, based in Meck­en­heim, Ger­many, is im­port­ing 1.5 tonnes of Myan­mar green tea for the very first time.

The com­pany, which is buy­ing world­wide only the best 0.5 per­cent of the yearly har­vest, thus be­comes the first Ger­man im­porter of the tea pro­duced at the com­mu­nity-based model fac­tory in Sikya Inn vil­lage, Pin­daya town­ship, Shan State.

“The project is part of a big­ger project to sup­port SMEs, fo­cus­ing on the spe­cific area of Shan State,” said Matthias Plewa, se­nior ad­viser of the Myan­mar-Ger­many Pri­vate Sec­tor De­vel­op­ment (PSD) of GIZ.

“This is a show­case and a pi­lot project that other places can repli­cate,” he said.

The Sikya Inn fac­tory opened in May, 2015, and ex­ports be­gan in Septem­ber, said Mr Plewa, adding that a con­tract had been drawn up for the ex­port of a fur­ther 3.5 tonnes next year.

PSD is work­ing with the Myan­mar Tea Clus­ter which is part of the Myan­mar Fruit and Veg­etable Pro­duc­ers and Ex­porters As­so­ci­a­tion (MFVP) to de­velop the whole teapro­duc­ing chain, in­clud­ing farm­ers, pro­ces­sors, traders and ex­porters.

“We’re do­ing this project be­cause we want to re­build the Myan­mar tea in­dus­try,” said Thomas Sch­nei­der, chief ad­viser to PSD.

About 14 lo­cal farm­ers in Pin­daya town­ship sup­ply the fac­tory.

“We started three years ago to cre­ate a strat­egy about where they [in­dus­try stake­hold­ers] would like to be in the next five years. They said they would like to go for or­ganic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, to im­prove qual­ity and we would like to reach spe­cific ex­port mar­kets as well as the do­mes­tic mar­ket,” he said.

Mr Sch­nei­der said his or­gan­i­sa­tion chose Myan­mar be­cause the mar­ket has great po­ten­tial.

In the past, he said, Myan­mar tea was renowned for its qual­ity, but the in­dus­try had lacked the sup­port to grow.

The com­mu­nity-based model green tea fac­tory in Sikya Inn vil­lage was par­tially funded and tech­ni­cally sup­ported by GIZ. Sam­ples were twice sent to Ger­many for lab­o­ra­tory anal­y­sis which re­vealed that it was com­pletely clean from pes­ti­cides.

Mr Sch­nei­der said the fac­tory was the first in Shan State to process green tea as a com­mu­nity-based project. The state has no man­u­fac­tur­ing above the cot­tage-in­dus­try level. Two more fac­to­ries have been built in Ywarn­gan town­ship.

“There is not much Myan­mar tea on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. You will prob­a­bly not find Myan­mar tea in shops abroad,” he said, adding that some peo­ple in Europe still re­call Myan­mar’s tea in­dus­try.

GIZ is hop­ing that im­proved qual­ity mea­sures will give a boot to ex­ports in the fu­ture.

“To ex­port the tea, we need a phy­tosan­i­tary cer­tifi­cate from the crop pro­tec­tion depart­ment. An ex­port li­cence is re­quired, so this time we’re ex­port­ing un­der the MFVP as­so­ci­a­tion,” said PSD tech­ni­cal ex­pert U Ye Lin Oo said.

Mr Plewa said he hoped the fac­tory could be granted an or­ganic cer­tifi­cate by next Fe­bru­ary.

“But the ex­port price is more than dou­ble that of the do­mes­tic mar­ket, and the yield can be dou­bled only if the prun­ing tech­nique is changed,” he said.

U Kyaw Thiha, vice chair of Myan­mar Tea Clus­ter, said get­ting an or­ganic cer­tifi­cate was very ex­pen­sive for ex­porters. With­out sup­port from the govern­ment or an­other or­gan­i­sa­tion, farm­ers would not be able to af­ford it.

“To ac­cess an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket in large vol­umes, fund­ing is very im­por­tant. The pre­vi­ous govern­ment could not sup­port SMEs, and nei­ther has the new govern­ment so far,” he said.

U Kyaw Thiha said there were more than 800,000 acres (320,000 hectares) of tea plan­ta­tions coun­try­wide, with more than 600,000 acres (240,000ha) in Shan State.

“Do­mes­tic de­mand has in­creased in the past few years as in­stant tea salad has be­come pop­u­lar among con­sumers,” he said.

U Ba Si, who owns a 7-acre tea plan­ta­tion at Sikya Inn vil­lage, said it was not easy for small­hold­ers to ex­port.

“The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process is very com­pli­cated. We can ex­port this time thanks to GIZ and MFVP,” he said. “With the poor pro­cess­ing sys­tem they had in the past, we didn’t get good prices in the do­mes­tic mar­ket ei­ther. We hope many more coun­tries will im­port our tea by 2020, when we can pre­pare for or­ganic plan­ta­tions in the whole town­ship,” he said.

Photo: sup­plied

A worker tends to wilt­ing tea leave prior to pro­cess­ing.

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