Fickle weather has farmers turning to eugenia
Bad weather and softer prices for other agricultural products in Nay Pyi Taw has seen many farmers growing the decorative plant eugenia.
FACED with volatile weather conditions and market prices, some Nay Pyi Taw farmers have started planting eugenia – a decorative but hardy plant seen in homes and pagodas that holds the promise of higher returns.
Ko Win Aung from Pyinmana township has planted 3 acres of eugenia, which he thinks is a less risky investment amid abnormal weather conditions and market uncertainty.
“Planting eugenia provides more sure benefits compared to other crops,” he told The Myanmar Times on October 30. “If we plant eugenia we don’t have to worry about flood and drought, and we don’t need to worry about the market.”
Myanmar is often among those nations hardest hit by extreme weather events. Last summer, local farmers had to counter an unusual hot spell with additional water from irrigation canals, said Ko Win Aung. Unseasonal rain storms hit Myanmar in January this year, affecting Nay Pyi Taw and other regions.
The ground in Nay Pyi Taw is still saturated from the end of the recent rainy season, but eugenia has weathered the effect of both heat and heavy rain – although the plant grows slower in very wet ground, said Ko Win Aung.
Market prices for many crops have been also been volatile, with lower demand from China prompting sharp falls in price of rice and corn in the Nay Pyi Taw area and beyond.
Green leaved eugenia plants are perennially popular for home decoration and in pagodas across Myanmar. Locally grown eugenia is sent to Shan State as well as to the Nay Pyi Taw markets, said Ko Win Aung.
Eugenia cultivators also have the option to hold off on harvesting their plants, which take years to grow, until the price in the market improves, he said. Local growers have planted in areas where seasonal crops like seed corn and sesame used to be planted, he added, including Pyinmana, Lewe and Tatkon townships.
Lewe township grower Ko Tin Hlaing said, “If we plant eugenia there is no way to lose money. We can get as much profit as we invest and can wait as long as we want [to sell].”
Typically cultivators plant eugenia and then sell to brokers when the trunk of the plant is large enough to be put in a vase. The larger the plant, the higher the price, said grower Daw Mu Mu. A single plant can be sold for up to K1000 depending on the size and quality, although smaller less attractive plants can fetch one third of that price, she added.
But Ko Tin Zaw, who has about 2 acres of eugenia in Pyinmana township, said the plant requires an investment of around K1 million per acre, which can only be realised after two years of growth.
“It’s not a seasonal crop,” he said. “[The plant] requires a lot of investment and at least two years before harvest, so not everyone can [afford to] grow it.”
Cultivators buy small plants at K7 to K10 per plant, and can make at least K200 per plant when they harvest two years later, he said.
“But you can’t say you’ll get at least K2 million if you plant 10,000 plants,” he said. “Some plants die before being sold, and you have to spend a lot pulling up weeds.”
Eugenia is usually planted with weeds, and some growers spend around K300,000 an acre just removing weeds, which is in addition to costs for fertiliser and insecticides, eugenia farmers told The Myanmar Times.
Ko Win Aung said one local grower had recently sold his plants after two years, but had lost several thousand of the 30,000 plants in his plantation.
But some government officials are still backing the eugenia shift. Deputy minister U Tun Win from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation said that they will encourage cultivators to grow more of the plant.
‘Planting eugenia provides more sure benefits compared to other crops.’
Ko Win Aung Farmer
A farmer rides a bicycle through rows of trees in Nay Pyi Taw in April.