Chin State’s Konjac cultivation enhances rural livelihood and income, generates revenue

By Nadi Min

Chin State is renowned for its stunning and enchanting beauty of hills, covered with evergreen and deciduous forest. Moreover, terrace farming showcases the awe-inspiring beauty of steep hills. The rich soil in those terrace farms allows the residents to execute organic farming of the elephant foot yam (Konjac). The abundant supply of Konjac in Chin State contributes to exports as an industrial crop.

Konjac, a cash crop
Konjac was naturally found in the State. Strong market demand has driven commercial Konjac cultivation for over a decade.
“Thanks to favourable weather and soil conditions in Chin State, Konjac produced from the Chin State is of high quality, attracting foreign buyers. Subsequently, this lucrative crop reaps a handsome profit. I have been engaged in this business for many years,” U Sang Oak Mang, a grower from Haka Township elaborated.
Konjac raw materials are utilized in food and beverage, cosmetics, traditional medicine and pharmaceutical industries with value addition. Even the byproducts can be used as animal feed.
Konjac from Myanmar is of better quality than those origins from other countries in Asia. Consequently, foreign trade partners from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India prefer Myanmar’s Konjac.
Most importantly, Konjac from Chin State is rich in Glucomannan. It’s highly demanded in the Mandalay market. Thereafter, it is conveyed to China, the ROK and Japan. China is the top buyer among them.
Konjac is commonly grown in Mindat, Kanpetlet, Matupi and Haka townships. Konjac plantations cover 4,325 acres in Mindat, 1,565 in Matupi, 1,559 in Haka, 847 in Tiddim, 609 in Falam, 203 in Kanpetlet, and 933 in other townships in Chin State, totalling 10,041 acres. Chin State is the largest producer of Konjac in Myanmar, with an estimated output of over 250,000 tonnes per year.
The cultivation costs approximately K4 million per acre. The gross profit is around K8 million to 10 million depending on soil conditions and land treatment. This cash crop produces a great amount of profits.

Negative impact of COVID-19 on sluggish Konjac market
Chin State’s Konjac which has grasped a firm market share in the global market is currently bracing for a market crash amidst the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and regional instability.
“Nonetheless, passing on the Konjac plantation from generation to generation never fades away. Transportation disruption during the pandemic limited market reach,” U Myint Zaw Tun, director of the Department of the Co-operative.
A dried Konjac sheet processing factory located in Mindat, Chin State offered K1,500-K2,000 per viss of fresh yam from locals in the 2019-2020 financial year, allowing the residents to do well financially.
At present, that factory also shut down operations, making the growers face challenges.
“With that factory closing down, the Konjac is sent to the Mandalay market via Pakokku Township. The prevailing price of Konjac is K700 per viss so the growers do not make a profit as expected,” U Myint Zaw Tun added.
Additionally, the dried Konjac sheet price drastically plunged to K7,000 per viss from the K15,000 register in the pre-pandemic period, U Sang Oak Mang said.

Formation of cooperatives for market potentials
Under the directive of the Chin State’s Chief Minister, the micro, small, and medium enterprise development committee including officials from the related departments and organizations are implementing projects to boost the Konjac plantation in Chin State and step up the value-added market from raw material suppliers.
The Department of Agriculture is also offering technical assistance and awareness courses for choosing quality seeds to produce quality yam. Additionally, the Department of Co-operative is also forming a Konjac grower Co-operative society in each township and bridging the network between each co-operative to explore market opportunities.
Chin State’s Cooperative Department provided K600,000 for three acres of old farmers and K4.5 million for three acres of new farmers in the current 2023-2024 financial year through the State Economic Promotion Fund allotted to Chin State. Furthermore, K197.9 million will be contributed to 375.5 acres of the members of the cooperative societies.
“Following the instruction of the Chin State chief minister, cooperative societies are incorporated to form partnerships between the growers of common interest. It will help expand the business, achieve manufacturing of value-added products, and explore markets by linking the cooperative with the ministry concerned,” U Myint Zaw Tun highlighted.

Konjac cultivation increases income, bags export earnings
Enterprises are executing value-added production of Konjac such as dried Konjac sheets and Konjac noodles in Chin State. Those products are distributed domestically. The cooperative is also making concerted efforts to resume the operations of a dried Konjac sheet processing factory in Haka Township.
When Konjac, naturally grown in Chin’s Hills, can be produced and exported as a local product with value addition, it will help spur the socio-economic development of the local growers.

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