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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    NDAK company to boost crop substitution acreage

    A COMPANY owned by ceasefire group New Democratic Army (Kachin) (NDAK) will spend up to K500 million (about US$500,000) on opium poppy crop substitution programs this year, an official said.

    Chang Yin Khu Development plans to plant more than 13,000 acres of substitute crops, including rubber, tea, banana and cassava, in 2010, company director U Zahkung Ying Sau told The Myanmar Times in a recent interview.

    The company’s projected investment for the year is K300 million to K500 million. The project was established in Kachin State Special Region (1) in 1994, said U Zahkung Ying Sau, who is the son of NDAK chairman and co-founder U Zahkung Tingying.

    The NDAK was the first insurgent group in Kachin State to sign a ceasefire deal with the State Law and Order Restoration Council, in 1989, and is based on the China-Myanmar border in Pang Wa, Tsawlaw township.

    The company currently has 4700 acres of rubber, green tea and cassava plantation in Pangwa township. That is expected to expand to 18,000 acres – including 8000 acres of rubber, 6000 of cassava, 3000 of banana and 1000 of tea – by the end of the year, U Zahkung Ying Sau said.

    Some of the land used for cultivation is owned by farmers, some is owned by the company and the rest is leased from the government with the permission of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.

    “We distribute the propagates and provide the agriculture technology to the villagers in the region free of charge,” he said. “At harvest time, some of the farmers sell the produce back to us and some sell it privately, usually to traders on the China border.”

    The company initially struggled to convince villagers to give up growing opium poppies, he said, but began making inroads in about 2000.

    “At first, we were not totally successful,” he said. “But later we could persuade them to grow replacement crops in fields where poppies had previously been grown.”

    He said the improvement was because of the company’s education programs. “We explain to the villagers that by growing the crops, they can get not only short-term benefits but also long-term.”

    U Zahkung Ying Sau said despite its recent successes in persuading farmers to give up opium cultivation the company was still yet to make a profit. “Our main aim is to increase the income of the farmers in the region.”

    However, the company expects to eventually derive profit from its tea and rubber plantations, which are more long-term investments.

    “Our aim is to plant 300 acres of tea every year for the next five years. Presently we can only produce about eight tonnes of green tea a year, which is sold in the local market,” he said. “When we are producing more we will look to export internationally and make a higher profit.”

    Chang Yin Khu Development is not the only group attempting to implement opium substitution programs in Kachin State Special Region (1). In 1997, the NDAK and Myanmar authorities established an anti-drugs fund with foreign donations and began implementing crop substitution, as well as drug treatment, information and suppression campaigns.

    “[The NDAK] are implementing projects to increase production of rice and maize and the breeding of pigs, chickens and cows,” said U Zahkung Ying Sau, who described drug eradication programs in the region as “95pc succesful”.

    In a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released in December, opium poppy cultivation in Kachin State was estimated at 1400 hectares, or about 3500 acres.

    By Myo Myo
    May 17 - 23, 2010



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