Fickle weather has farm­ers turn­ing to eu­ge­nia

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - thanhtoo@mm­times.com HTOO THANT – Trans­la­tion by Win Thaw Tar

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

Photo: EPA

A farmer rides a bi­cy­cle through rows of trees in Nay Pyi Taw in April.

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