Despite huge interests from the EU and Asian markets, Myanmar’s fruit and vegetable exporters are yet to cash in on the opportunities due to lack of certification, poor quality and weak cultivation methods, experts and industry insiders say.
“South Korea would like to purchase a lot of fruits from Myanmar but they are hesitating because they don’t like the current low quality of Myanmar fruits,” Dr Daw Than Than Sein, consultant at Myanmar Fruits and Vegetables Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Myanmar Business Today.
“To do business with the EU, the fruit exporters need GAP (Good Agriculture Practice) certification. As long as such international standards and practices are not developed the exporters will keep facing difficulties penetrating the international market,” she said.
GAPs are specific methods which, when applied to agriculture, create food for consumers or further processing that is safe and wholesome.
“Right now quality of our fruits is very poor. GAP ensures that in your fruit you don’t have insects or insecticides and so on. South Korea is asking for this, the EU also. The government should lead this process.”
Myanmar fruit and vegetable producers also need upgraded technology to improve the quality of exports and the cultivation method also has to be systematic, U Hnin Oo, vice chairman of Myanmar Fruit and Vegetable Producers Association (MFVPA), said. “GAP system can ensure higher prices for Myanmar’s fruit and vegetable exports,” he said.
Industry insiders say the exporters need technical aid and know-how from the government to overcome the situation.
“Local entrepreneurs have very little experience in fresh fruit exportation. We can improve if there is government help,” Daw Lei Lei Oo, an MFVPA spokesperson, said.
Myanmar started mango and watermelon exports to Singapore in May last year, starting with a 3 tonne shipment of seedless watermelons, which were only exported to China before.
In the past, Myanmar’s main customer for fruits and vegetables was China through border trades, but it initiated market expansion three years ago. It targeted Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and participated in international fruit festivals around the world. Recently, England and Germany have shown interest in importing fruits from Myanmar, besides Japan and South Korea, MFVPA officials said.
Myanmar earned $34.98 million from exports of fruits and vegetables in the first nine months of the fiscal year 2013-14, with main exporting items being mango, watermelon and cucumber, according to official statistics. In the previous fiscal year, the country saw $73.83 million worth of exports to foreign markets.