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Buckwheat substituted for opium poppies in Myanmar.

YANGON, Dec. 1 Kyodo

A ceremony to commemorate the initial success of an opium crop substitution pilot project assisted by agricultural experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) took place in northeastern Myanmar, participants said Tuesday. The ceremony Monday was attended by senior junta leader Lt. Gen Khin Nyunt and other Myanmar officials, Japanese Ambassador Kazuo Asakai, Japanese agricultural technicians working on the project, as well as local leaders and villagers. Discussions on the idea of growing buckwheat to substitute poppies in poppy growing areas in Myanmar began between Myanmar and Japan in 1996. Japanese agricultural experts later visited the target area to carry out a feasibility study and Myanmar agricultural officers were invited to Japan for training. The pilot project got under way earlier this year, involving the planting of buckwheat seeds from Japan on 83.6 hectares of land near Thar-Shwe-Tan village in the Kokang region, 800 kilometers northeast of Yangon. The results were encouraging, with a yield of 72 kilograms of buckwheat grain per hectare. The buckwheat is to be exported to Japan for use in making soba, or Japanese noodles, among other products. Kokang leader Phone Kyar Shin said he plans to extend the cultivation of buckwheat to 2,000 hectares beginning next year. Other crops such as rice, sugar cane, coffee, rubber, plums, pears, apples and walnuts, are also being grown to replace poppies in his area. The remote Kokang and Wa regions, bordering China and formerly controlled by Burma Communist Party (BCP) rebels for more than four decades, are the major poppy growing areas in Myanmar. The BCP collapsed in early 1989 when Kokang and Wa tribesmen, who formed the major fighting force of the BCP, revolted against the ethnic Burmese leadership of the BCP in March and April of that year. The Kokang and Wa tribesmen returned to the legal fold to work for the development of their respective regions in cooperation with the government. Speaking at the ceremony, Khin Nyunt thanked the Japanese government and the Japanese personnel involved in the project and told the local leaders to continue the work with zeal. ''In the fight against poppy production, it is not enough just to destroy the crop that has been their (local villagers') livelihood since the British colonial days. We must be able to ensure adequate alternative means of livelihood for the farmers,'' he added.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Dec 7, 1998
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