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Planters of traditional crop thanaka hope to see turnaround

Despite the popularity of local and foreign-made thanaka-based cosmetics products, growers of the crop are troubled by low prices, say growers and producers.

Thanaka is a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark that is widely popular in Myanmar and can be commonly seen on the faces of women and also some men in the country.

Local regulations stipulate that thanaka-based cosmetic products must contain at least 20 percent of the bark paste, however, enforcement of the rules by the relevant authorities in the country is weak say growers and producers.

“Both local and foreign producers of thanaka cosmetics don’t use raw thanaka as much as they should so farmers lose revenue. As a result they switch to growing other crops such as sterculia gum, drumstick tree and mango,” said Myanmar Thanaka Planters, Producers and Exporters Association Chair U Kyaw Moe.

According to the associations estimates, some 20,000 hectares out of a total 121,000 hectares of land dedicated to growing thanaka has been replaced with other crops.

Thanaka, perennial plant, needs to be at least five to seven years old before the bark can be harvested so farmers have switched to sterculia gum which can make money in about two years, said U Kyaw Soe Win, a thanaka planter from Ayadaw township, Sagaing Region.

Depending on the quality, the price of a thanaka tree ranges from K20,000 to K30,000 but a Thanaka plant over five years old is only worth below K10,000.

“Although jute is also being grown instead of thanaka plants these days, the remaining thanaka plants are not sold out yet and unlike in the past, people from rural areas are not buying anymore, causing prices to drop. If you planted a thanaka field in the past and sold it after five years, you could get around K5 million, but it has dropped to K3 million now,” said U Khin Maung Soe, another thanaka plant grower in Ayadaw township.

Thanaka plants are mainly found in tropical zones in Myanmar and is commonly grown in Pakokku, Myaing, and Yesagyo in Magwe Region, and Palae, Monywa, Ayadaw and Kanbalu in Sagaing Region.

The local thanaka market used to be largely dependent on religious ceremonies and holidays in the country and the product was sold in many parts of the country.

The by Myanmar Thanaka Planters and Producers Association held the Myanmar Thanaka Conference in Monywa, last November as part of efforts to boost markets for the crop, said U Kyaw Moe.

Part of those efforts include the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs submitting thanaka to be registered with UNESCO as part of Myanmar’s intangible cultural heritage. – Translated

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Source : Myanmar Times

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