Chin opens yam processing plant in first major investment

Chin State has opened its first elephant foot yam processing plant in a major investment for Myanmar’s poorest area, with plans to export to China and other parts of Asia.

The US$320,000 factory is operated by Chin Hills Treasure Company (CHTC), an agricultural enterprise owned and run by farmer groups from Mindat, Matupi and Kanpetlet townships who hope to increase incomes of impoverished farmers through this important cash crop.

“It is a dream come true for me, I never expected I would own a factory, not in all my life,” said 56-year-old U Kee Home, a farmer shareholder of CHTC who has cultivated elephant foot yam for 15 years.

The 6.7 acre factory is the first major investment to be realised in the poorest of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions and could boost the confidence of prospective agribusiness investors.

With meagre transport and power infrastructure, Chin has failed to attract any significant foreign or domestic investment, although there are signs of interest. In early 2019, the state government signed a preliminary agreement with Norway Power Co for a $50 million hydropower scheme.

The UK’s Department for International Development contributed a $80,000 grant for a drying machine for the yam processing plant through the DaNa Facility, a private sector development programme, which also gave technical support. The project was led by the Myanmar Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Producer and Exporter Association, which is also working on avocado and coffee in the state.

Chief Minister U Salai Lian Luai officiated at the factory opening on January 26 in Htin Chaung village, Mindat township, with over 400 attendees.

“This first-ever elephant foot yam processing factory in Chin State is creating employment opportunities and increasing incomes for local people and stands as a model for other investors to follow,” he said.

Peter Brimble of DaNa Facility said opening the processing plant was a “momentous success” which would strengthen the elephant foot yam value chain and significantly increase the incomes of poor farmers.

The yam processing plant is expected to employ around 35 people and will produce diced and dried yam chips, initially for the Chinese market.

The CHTC has inked a contract with the three farmer groups to purchase the tubers from 63 villages. A total of 800 farmers will initially supply the factory with collection centres in the three townships. The factory will receive a market price expected to range from K15,000-20,000 ($10.5-$13) per viss (1.6kg), compared to K11,000 ($7.4) currently, a premium of at least 36 percent.

It will start processing up to 12 tonnes of fresh yams a day, with a target of 300 tonnes in total within this year, increasing to 500 tonnes in subsequent years. It also plans to diversify its product lines to include flour and powdered food ingredients and to export to nearby Asian markets.

More investments in Chin State are expected to follow. Investors say they see potential in agribusiness, ecotourism, traditional textile and hydropower, which are also the state government’s priorities, along with urban development.

Chin State’s first airport, the $25 million Surbung airport in Falam township, is scheduled to open in the second quarter of this year, according to state media.

In an effort to support businesses, the Chin State Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established in 2017, and the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) operation started in the state capital of Hakha in the same year.

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Source : Myanmar Times

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