Myanmar MPs Vote to Regulate, Tax Chinese-Backed Banana Trade

NAYPYITAW – The Upper House of Myanmar’s Parliament on Monday approved a proposal to regulate China-backed banana plantations and levy a tax on the industry.

Earlier this month, parliamentarian Dr. Khun Win Thaung of Kachin State submitted the proposal to the Upper House, saying tissue-culture banana plantations operated by Chinese companies are threatening the community’s way of life.

Dubbed tissue-cultured bananas, the green bananas are grown with Chinese techniques and are bigger than the normal yellow fruit.

The parliamentarian called for government coordination to systematically regulate Chinese companies growing bananas, lessen the negative impact on Kachin State and collect taxes.

On Monday, the proposal was passed with 168 votes in favor, four against and two abstentions.

Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation U Hla Kyaw said his ministry was educating companies to use only pesticides and fertilizers registered in Myanmar in response to the parliamentarian’s claim that companies were using powerful pesticides that harmed the environment and caused soil degradation.

The ministry would also require the companies to ensure that employees wore full protective clothing when spraying pesticides. And it also requires the companies to inform residents through village administrators if they are due to spray pesticides, according to U Hla Kyaw.

“We have drafted standard operating procedures regarding the growing of tissue-culture bananas. And we have sought input from various departments,” he told the Parliament.

“I am satisfied that my proposal will be able to push the government to take responsibility,” Dr. Khun Win Thaung told The Irrawaddy.

The Agriculture Department, in response to the proposal, visited banana plantations in Myitkyina, Waingmaw and Bhamo townships and examined soil conditions. Tests showed soil quality had not yet been impacted by banana plantations and there was still no threat to the environment, said the deputy minister.

“If we can make sure the investment is made systematically, the soil is not impacted and proper tax is levied, growing tissue-culture bananas will have more advantages than disadvantages,” said parliamentarian U Hla San of Magwe Region.

The banana trade is exempt from commercial tax by the Internal Revenue Department. Only income tax was imposed on banana profits, said the deputy minister.

The cost of growing bananas for the Chinese market was around 2.5 million kyats (US$1,660) per acre (0.4 hectares), and the net profit was around 3.6 million kyats, said U Hla Kyaw.

There are more than 260,000 acres of banana plantations across the country with 29 percent in Kachin State, 23 percent in Ayeyarwady Region, 9 percent in Sagaing Region and over 10,000 acres each in Kayin State and Tanintharyi and Mandalay regions, according to government land records.

Myanmar exported over 700,000 tons of tissue-culture bananas to China during the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the deputy minister.

Source: Irrawaddy

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