Con­cerns for soil qual­ity sparks Sa­gaing sur­vey

The Myanmar Times - - Business - Kyawkoko@mm­ KYAW KO KO

THE Sa­gaing Re­gion gov­ern­ment has be­gun test­ing soil in Bu­talin town­ship after a group of farm­ers raised con­cerns over soil con­tam­i­na­tion through the overuse of fer­tiliser on land be­ing rented by for­eign agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers to grow fruit and veg­eta­bles.

They say that the ten­ants, whom farm­ers iden­tify as largely Chi­nese, are also us­ing chem­i­cals and tech­niques that will yield more and put the pro­duce of lo­cal grow­ers at an un­fair ad­van­tage to grow prof­itable cash crops that will out­per­form their own.

The pur­pose of the tests is to en­sure that the soil is not be­ing spoiled by chem­i­cals, said U Thit­sar Ni, deputy chair of the Sweet Melon Cu­cum­ber Trad­ing As­so­ci­a­tion of Sa­gaing Re­gion.

Of­fi­cials from the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ir­ri­ga­tion, the Sur­vey De­part­ment, the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion De­part­ment, the Im­mi­gra­tion and Na­tional Regis­tra­tion De­part­ment and the Town­ship Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment are work­ing to­gether on the mon­i­tor­ing op­er­a­tion, he said.

Tests were car­ried out in Bu­talin town­ship in mid-October, U Thit­sar Ni told The Myan­mar Times on October 23.

“Each min­istry will pur­sue its own con­cerns. The im­mi­gra­tion de­part­ment needs to know if the for­eign ten­ants have the right kind of visas,” he said. “The agri­cul­tural de­part­ment will be look­ing at the kinds of seeds they’re plant­ing and whether the chem­i­cals they’re us­ing are legally per­mis­si­ble or not.”

The ten­ants are cul­ti­vat­ing bor­rowed land, he said, and there were con­cerns from lo­cal farm­ers that if they use too much fer­tiliser they could de­stroy the soil.

“We started with Bu­talin town­ship, and we will also carry out spot checks else­where,” he said.

“If we find any­thing il­le­gal, we will take ac­tion. We’ve also asked for an un­der­tak­ing from the ten­ants to com­ply,” he said.

Lo­cal farm­ers say that the for­eign ten­ants made long-term agree­ments with the landown­ers, pay­ing be­tween K200,000 and K500,000 per acre for the use of the land.

Water­mel­ons and cu­cum­bers are the most ex­ported fruits, and about 70 per­cent of the ten­ants’ crops have al­ready been put on the mar­ket, said U Thit­sar Ni.

“There’s more de­mand for their fruit on the for­eign mar­ket as cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques are not as ad­vanced as theirs, and our fruit can­not match theirs,” he said.

“We feel very ag­grieved that they’ve come here to plant on bor­rowed land and then to ex­port. They use too much fer­tiliser, and if the soil is de­stroyed we will not be able to cul­ti­vate it. There is also the risk of bad seeds. We have to think of the ecosys­tem,” he said.

Re­cent heavy rains in Sa­gaing have flooded many wa­ter­melon farms and stopped ex­ports, said melon farmer Ko Zaw of nearby Myaung Mya.

“We can’t ex­port fruit now be­cause of the rain. We need im­proved plant­ing tech­niques. Some farm­ers are fac­ing losses,” he said. Re­quests for com­ments from the ten­ants went unan­swered. – Trans­la­tion by Khine Thazin Han

‘We feel very ag­grieved that they’ve come here to plant on bor­rowed land and then to ex­port.’

U Thit­sar Ni Sweet melon as­so­ci­a­tion, Sa­gaing

Photo: Si Thu Lwin

Wa­ter­melon are sold on Ka­nar Street in Man­dalay.

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