Myanmar Junta Grows Bananas to Boost Food Security
By The Irrawaddy 2 September 2021
Myanmar’s military is growing bananas at its barracks, including its regional headquarters, said regime spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun.
“The entire Tatmadaw [military] has started to grow tissue-culture bananas. The cultivar we are growing is different from those being grown by China [in Myanmar]. We grow ‘phee gyan’,” he said.
“The Tatmadaw’s lab and research unit researched growing phee gyan bananas with the tissue-culture method. It was successful, and we can now grow tens of thousands of saplings of the same size,” he added.
The banana project followed coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s instruction in June.
“The Tatmadaw is cultivating tissue-cultured bananas of the phee gyan and Thihmway varieties, which are nutritious and beneficial for health, and will distribute the saplings at reasonable prices to ministries to grow bananas in states, regions, districts and townships. Doing so will be of great benefits for the country,” he told management committee members of the State Administration Council (SAC), the regime’s governing body.
He said banana saplings would be sold at low prices to the public for food security. The Defence Ministry says it will sell the public saplings for 400 kyats (24 US cents).
According to an unverified letter that leaked on social media, electricity offices across the country were asked by the chief engineer of the Naypyitaw Electricity Supply Enterprise (NESE) to report the number of banana plants and the amount of land available to the Naypyitaw headquarters by Sept. 1. The letter said the ministry was following SAC instructions.
The Irrawaddy was unable to reach the NESE but an official at the Ministry of Electricity and Energy in Naypyitaw said no instruction had been received.
The banana plantation project reminds many of a failed project to grow castor oil trees under the previous military regime of dictator Than Shwe.
The then regime ordered that castor oil trees be grown across the country, including in schools, to produce biofuel for energy security. The scheme failed to produce biofuel and wasted time and money.
The planned banana project contradicts plans to create a market economy and will fail, said an economist, who did not want to be named.
“A government’s role in a market economy is to encourage businesses and create an environment in which firms can operate freely and to fulfill other requirements. The senior general should have offered support to develop the private sector. If the government sells products itself, it won’t be successful. It will only increase corruption,” he said.
Chinese-owned farms grow tissue-culture (thee hmwe) bananas in Kachin and northern Shan states. Though the farms create jobs and contribute to the economy, residents have complained about the excessive use of pesticides and environmental damage.
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