The situation of tea famers who have to work as poppy field workers

Most of young and middle aged people from the villages in Namhsan Township of Northern Shan State go to work in poppy fields during the tea harvesting season.

“Men go to work at poppy fields mostly. When we work on poppy farms, two to three people work together. This way is suitable and also not so bad for us” said a Namhsan villager.

“Now it is the time to harvest our tea farm. It is not a time to receive money, so we go to work at a Chinese poppy farm. If we work on poppy field, we get at least five thousand (5000) kyat as well as food and in some places we get six thousand (6000) to seven thousand (7000) kyat. If we work on the tea farm we get a maximum of two thousand (2000) kyat per day and we need to take food with us. Also, when we carry bricks, we get three thousand (3000) kyat a day. For those who have a lot of farms, we have to recruit workers. Working as Chinese workers, we could use the money to recruit workers working on tea farm with the money we receive from the Chinese people” said one woman.

Due to low prices of tea, the tea farmers depend less on the main tea growing for their survival and depend more on poppy production every year.

“Every year we go to work on poppy field and tomato farm. We depend on other people.  We mainly grow tea but the tea prices are not good so we go to work for others as workers. Growing tea won’t make us rich. Working for other people won’t make us rich either but when we come back we have enough for our family. If we just stay in the village, we won’t be able to afford to it” said another woman.

A woman from Namhsan said, “scraping poppy, we could send money to my home–at least five hundred thousand (500000) kyat per month. For those who are good at scraping poppy, they get one to one and half million (1000000-1500000) kyat per month. For me I get eight hundred thousand (800000) kyat. We depend a lot on poppy field work. This year due to ongoing fighting in Myitgyina, there is less space to work. We have to go to work in Tharmonge and China. Because of the opium fields, the people in our village can afford to buy motorbikes and TVs as well as build many new houses. If we just rely on tea production, we won’t develop.

Within the village, it is only older people and babies because the young and middle age people are going to work since November until the first week of April. Every year for approximately 20 years, the people go to work in other places during the poppy season.


Information Documentation and Research Department

Palaung Women’s Organization