Royal Jaggery offers a sweet ‘Made in Myanmar’ product

Kaung Set Naing, founder of 555 Shwe Hintha, thinks Royal Jaggery is just the “Made in Myanmar” product the world has been looking for.

Jaggery, a healthier alternative to refined white sugar, is made from toddy palm trees or sugar cane, and its production has long been a cottage industry in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar. With concern about the harmful effects of white sugar growing across the developed world and people paying more attention to what they eat, Ko Kaung Set Naing is convinced that Royal Jaggery offers an affordable alternative.

The brand could also help raise awareness among Myanmar people of the diseases caused by eating too much white sugar.

If his bid to bring Royal Jaggery to the world succeeds, it would add to the few “Made in Myanmar” products available on the world market, such as coffee, raising interest in the country and helping local farmers.

Traditionally sold in small blocks for use in desserts, candy or as a sweetener, jaggery is considered by nutritionists to be a more complex sugar than refined white sugar.

In Myanmar, jaggery is produced from toddy palm trees grown in the central and northern areas of the country. The source of 555 Shwe Hintha’s products is Yesagyo township in Magwe Region, which is famous for its jaggery.

Ko Kaung Set Naing plans to expand sales of Royal Jaggery not only to major cities but also overseas. He first thought of selling jaggery overseas after a trip to Thailand in 2016, where jaggery production and consumption has been commercialised.

“I’ve been in the traditional jaggery business for years but needed to add value. When I saw how jaggery is booming in Thailand, I decided to change the way we make it,” he said.

Moving away from producing jaggery in blocks, Ko Kaung Set Naing entered into a partnership with a Japanese firm, where he learned how to make it in powder form. However, he found that the local market was not ready for this new kind of jaggery, which was more expensive, although the powder is easier to use.

“We’ve been making more efforts to introduce people to jaggery powder since early this year,” he said.

He now has orders not just from the local market but also from overseas. However, he found that costs are higher when selling overseas because of the need for special packaging and reliable delivery.

The company, which has financial and technical backing from the Netherlands and Denmark for the production of jiggery, has trained the climbers who collect the sap of the palm toddy in villages in Yesagyo to uphold strict hygiene standards. The climbers collect the sap from March to October.

This new business for 555 Shwe Hintha has resulted in higher incomes for farmers who grow the toddy palm trees. The largest export markets for jaggery are China, Japan and South Korea. In Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia also export jaggery.

The company has set its sights on selling to the European market, for which he must ensure that the product meets international standards. “Japan is familiar with jaggery from Myanmar, but we need to explain to Europeans our production standards and jaggery’s advantages,” he added.

He said Myanmar jaggery faces a challenge breaking in to foreign markets because it is not supported by government-to-government export agreements. He said that on average, Japan imports 30 tonnes of jaggery powder, and 20 tonnes are consumed domestically a month. The company plans to export to South Korea, China and the Netherlands.

It plans to open a factory in Yesagyo that can produce 700 tonnes of jaggery a year.

Source: Myanmar Times

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