This article by Nan Lwin was published in The Irrawaddy, independent web news portal in Myanmar [former Burma], and is reproduced on Global Voices as part of an agreement to share content.
This 500-acre banana plantation [1 acre = 4,047 square meters], located in Lamyang Township in Kachin State, comes alive at 7 a.m. every morning. Workers, men and women alike – most of them from Rakhine state – transport freshly cut bunches of green bananas onto rockers to a processing area, where the banana is rinsed and soaked into a tank containing a special chemical solution Nobody knows what the solution is made of, but they say that “it serves to make the fruits last longer.” The banana is then loaded – under the watchful eyes of Chinese supervisors – in 12-wheelers that take it to its final destination: Yunnan province, in China.
“It takes us about four hours to fully load a truck. After that, we have our lunch break, ”says one worker.
The scene is a small sample of the rapid expansion of banana plantations for plant tissue culture, in the state of Kachin. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Kachin has more than 60,000 acres of those plantations. Social organizations, however, claim to have counted more than 170,000 acres in the municipalities of Waimaw, Bhamo, Schwegu, Mansi, Momauk and Dokphoneyan, located in the same state of Kachin. Most plantations have Chinese support, and are accused of stealing land, causing environmental damage, and violating the labor rights of their workers.
Banana plantations for plant tissue culture are banned in Laos and Thailand, but they are everywhere in the state of Kachin, a war-torn region. Most of the farmland abandoned by ethnic displacement in Kachin has been replaced by these plantations.
According to reports from social organizations, companies are using insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and apply them irresponsibly; They also claim that chemists have polluted water sources, which poisons the soil and kills fish and livestock.