Mutra mat production industry of Pantanaw Township contributes to socio-economy of local people

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Only the vicinity areas of Pantanaw Township buy the Mutra mats in the past, but now the mat becomes popular among the people living across the nation. Currently, not only the woman but also the man makes the mat as their career.

Pantanaw Township in Ayeyawady Region, which was once named Pan Kya Naw as a pagoda was built there while Princess Ohmar Dandi dropped her flower from her head while trying to escape from the princes.
The township is famous for its traditional mat weaving industry (Mutra mat).
Although there are many mat makers in the Ayeyawady Region, about 80 per cent population of Pantanaw Township mainly run the mat making industry. Therefore, people at any age understand how to make mats.
“You can go any villages in Pantanaw Township. Almost every house operates mat making. Some run their private industry and some weave as daily wage workers,” said Ko Soe Han, daily wage worker of Pan Ayeya Production Cooperatives Limited while making the mat.
There are different processes in the Mutra mat making industry like slicing, peeling, yarning, weaving and sewing using the hands and legs and the wage is also different depending on such procedures.
“The wage is different. It depends on the processes. I get K8,000 or K10,000 per day. The rate does not remain the same. I can get the wage as far as I can sew,” Ko Soe Han added.
Only the vicinity areas of Pantanaw Township buy the Mutra mats in the past, but now the mat becomes popular among the people living across the nation. Currently, not only the woman but also the man makes the mat as their career.
There are 40 members of Pan Ayeya Industry Cooperatives, which was organized by the people with united desires in Pantanaw Township of Ayeyawady Region, and one member hires at least three or four workers to run their business. The 40-member association produces about 360 mats including double mats, single mats and normal mats per month.
“The workers are not the members of the association. Some are working as daily wage workers. Some families weave at their homes. If so, they can get extra income. Everyone can make rough Mutra mats. There is a worker shortage problem as not all can make finished mat (smooth mat) for its detailed arts,” said Daw Tin Tin Khine, secretary of Pan Ayeya.
The mats like the double mat, single mat including prayer mats produced from Pan Ayeya have a firm place in the current Mutra mat market.
The local and foreign travellers like to buy the souvenirs such as hats, shoes and wallets made of Murta strips.
“The Murta has been here since before we were born. They were not used in widespread at that time. But now, we have a proper transportation system and the people across the nation use the products and so the transactions become high,” said U Win Maung from Myo Kwat Thit (1) of Pantanaw Township.
Pantanaw Township has a Mutra making industry and a total of 34 village-tracts of the township operate 10,526 acres of Murta plantation. Moreover, the raw materials of Murta plants are also transported to Danubyu, Maubin, Nyaungdon, Wakema, Einme, Kyonpyaw, Hinthada, Kyaunggon townships and Sagaing and Mandalay Region. Therefore, Murta cultivation is a successful industry of these townships.
“There are more than 10,000 acres of Murta. We can fall them once every three years. So, we can buy the raw materials as much as we want. There would be no shortage of raw materials as we can buy the needed materials from those who store the dried Murta even in the rainy season,” said U Win Maung, mat-weaving entrepreneur.
It would not be wrong to say that it is the handcraft industry that needs a lot of time, production costs and labour force from the beginning to the end of the mat weaving processes.
“Mutra mat weaving industry benefits to the workers, planters and mat makers. They get suitable wages depending on their workload. Some people can meet the cost of living and some get rich,” said U Hlaing Win, chairman of Pan Ayeya.
The association also provides the needed capital, technique and proper market to other associations like Pan Ayeya to improve the income of families in the region.
U Saw Andrew Pan from Region Cooperatives Union said,” We give the suggestions when they need. We also provide financial assistance. We hold meeting with BOD if they want loans. We do not grant loans to those who break the terms and conditions of the agreement. The Co-operative grants more than K300 million to SMEs in Ayeyawady Region.”
Moreover, the region SME Department cooperates with Pact Myanmar and PGMF microfinance institutions for SME loans and conducts training courses to produce more skilled workers.
“Our department cooperates with other ministries concerned for the development of Pantanaw areas and job opportunities for the locals. We carry out the other arrangements for capital and loans,” said U Soe Naing Htoo, region head of SME Department.
Even the industries in world countries face various difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic and so Myanmar’s handicraft industry like mat weaving industry also badly hit by the pandemic especially in production costs, labour costs and sales. Not only the mat entrepreneurs but also the families relying on this industry face hardships.
“The industry was badly hit by COVID-19. The workers cannot come to the work sites. The business came to a complete standstill. But the Co-operative temporarily suspended our repayment. It helped ease the pain for us. Currently, some market analysts make the orders again,” said Pan Ayeya Chairman U Hlaing Win.
Daw Cho Cho Khine, mat maker said,“I get about K6,000 per day. I kept doing my work in the outbreak of COVID-19 as we are living hand-to-mouth. But there were not many orders. I have been back to work for three months.”
The Pan Ayeya association earns about K8.4 million profit per year from Mutra mat production sales and estimates K1.5 million for the welfare of association members and K1 million as stipends for the children.
Moreover, the Pan Ayeya takes a K20 million loan from the region co-operative union at K1.25 per cent of interest rate to expand the industry. Moreover, it shares the profits, funds and estimated budgets with the decision of BOD and members. It also focuses on quality mat production.
“We take K20 million loan from co-operative union to buy the raw materials. Then, we share them with the team members. We have to give K0.25 million of interest per month. Now, we try hard to repay the capital, Pan Ayeya Chairman continued.
Moreover, the mats are sold by opening shops on normal days or International Cooperatives Day and distributed to other Co-operatives union of states and regions where do not have Mutra mat. They are even sold at the pagoda festivals of countryside areas.
U Htay Myint Aung, region head of Cooperative Department said,” The government combines the Cooperatives Department and Rural Development Department into the Ministry of Cooperative and Development of Rural Areas. Therefore, it can carry out the better things for the society and economy of the rural and urban people.”
Mutra mat, the real artworks of Myanmar crafted in detail, is suitable with the climate of Myanmar and essential things for novitiation and wedding ceremonies, creates job opportunities for locals.
Daw Tin Tin Khine, a local of Pantanaw and member of Pan Ayeya said,“I am proud that my town is best known for the Mutra mat. It is such a traditional business and so I want to keep doing that industry to be more successful, no matter how difficult it may be.”—Seinn Khet

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