People in the norther Shan state are frustrated and are struggling with their livelihoods because of the low tea price of the 2013 picking season.
At the beginning of Shwepioo (tea picking season), green tea leaves per viss are only 900 Kyat and dry tea is 2500/3000 kyat per viss in Namhsan. However dry tea per viss is only 1500/2000 Kyat in Namhsan and Mantong township where a lot of Palaung people are living.
According to one Namhsan township villagers, “the tea prices are very low and it is a bad situation. Even green tea leaves are only 900 kyat per viss at the beginning of Shwepioo. Now it is only 600 kyat. I think after the water festival the price will be only 200 Kyat per viss and we have been picking tea for 15 days. The price of dry tea is so bad too, only 2500/ 3000 Kyat per viss.”
Since the civil war has been going in the northern Shan state in 2011, people picking tea are worried about their security during tea picking season and migrants from middle of Burma are not coming to the north because they are so concerned about the fighting. Since the migrants are not coming to pick tea, the trees are becoming mature and most of the villagers have to cut out their tea trees.
“We are waiting for tea picking season, but the situation is not as we expected and the people from middle of the country are not coming to pick tea because of the civil war. We didn’t have enough people to pick tea leaves so we had to cut down our trees. This year there is not enough rain so the tea production is not as good” said one villager from Namhsan township.
The price of the tea is not increasing. Since 2008 in Shwepioo season, one group of tea traders manipulated the tea price using Auarmine-O to put color in the pickled tea laves. Since then, the price of tea started becoming lower by the year. Since the tea prices droped and the good price increased, the farmers are having trouble.
“We would like the tea price to increase because we are growing only tea for our living standard. When the tea price is not good we don’t know what to do. The tea trader told us to pick up only the top of the tea leaves and we do as they recommend but the price still remains the same and the price of the goods are becoming higher” said one farmer.
Palaung Tea Growing and Selling Association (PTGSA) started at the beginning of January 2013, in order to aims to maintain good quality tea. However, as they just started the association, they haven’t solved the problem of the low tea price for the people.
Most of the Palaung people are living in the northern Shan state such as Namhsan, Mantong, West of Kyautme township, Hsipaw, Moegok, Moemate, Namtu, Lashio, Kukhaing, Namkham and Muse townships. Therefore, some of Palaung people who are growing tea are living in the southern Shan state in Konhain, Aungpan, Kalaw, Pinloung, Hopoon and Yat Sauk townships. However the tea leaves are not solving the daily needs of the Palaung people who are growing tea.
Information Documentation Research and Department
Palaung Women’s Organization