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Deciduous Fruit in Myanmar
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Sein Hla Bo*

* National Project Director, Myanmar Agriculture Service, Ministry of Agriculture, Kanbe, Yangon, Myanmar
1. INTRODUCTION

Myanmar is bounded by land on the Northwest, North and East and the remaining sides by sea. It stretches for about 2361 km from North to South and 1078 km from East to West. The total area of the country is about 676,756 sq. km. The Western, Northern and Eastern parts of the country are hilly regions. The country can be divided into two main climatic zones, namely, the tropical South covering over two-thirds of the country and sub-tropical or warm temperate North covering the remaining one-third of the country. The Southwest monsoon brings the annual rains during the months of mid-May to mid-October, leaving the rest of the year relatively dry. During the dry season, there is a cold spell in the months of December to February, after which warm weather sets in. The temperature in the Southern parts of the country differs very little during the different seasons. However, in the central Myanmar plains, seasonal temperature variations in the magnitude of 40.6 - 46.3 °C in the hot season and 10 - 15.6 °C in the cold season are common. The Northern parts of the country usually experience somewhat lower temperatures throughout the year. High altitudes have resulted in the formation of cooler belts. In the Chin hills and Shan Plateau, on account of the higher altitude, the maximum temperature will not exceed 29.2 °C and the minimum temperature will go as low as 7.2 °C. Myanmar receives its annual rains mainly from the Southwest monsoon from mid-May to mid-October. The precipitation however varies depending on the locality, elevation and time of the year. July is generally regarded as the period of maximum rainfall throughout the country. The coastal and hilly regions receive the heaviest rainfall reaching 2540 mm to 5080 mm annually. In the central parts of Myanmar, rainfall is as low as 762 mm to 1016 mm per annum. The agro-climatic conditions within the country are suited to a large variety of crops such as equatorial plantation crops and temperate fruits, besides the common food and industrial crops of monsoon Asia.

2. PRESENT SITUATION OF DECIDUOUS FRUIT CROP CULTIVATION

Deciduous fruits have been grown in Myanmar since the 1930s. Apple, pear (Asian pear), plum (damson plum), and Japanese apricot are major deciduous fruit crops while some others are also grown on a small scale in several areas. Soil, topography and climatic conditions of hilly regions favor the cultivation of deciduous fruits. Although many of these fruits can grow in the hilly areas, only apple, Asian pear, plum and Japanese apricot are common, and the area under these fruits tends to increase year by year. The following Tables 1, 2 and 3 show production statistics of apple, Asian pear and plum in Myanmar.

Table 1. Production Status of Apple in 1996-97

State/Division

Cultivated
Area (ha)

Harvested
Area (ha)

Yield/Tons/ha

Total Production
in Tons

Chin State

3178

987

2.3

2270.1

Shan State

89

16

2.2

35.2

Total

3267

1003

-

2305.3

Table 2. Production Status of Asian Pear in 1996-97

State/Division

Cultivated
Area (ha)

Harvested
Area (ha)

Yield/Tons/ha

Total Production
in Tons

Chin State

1120

238

2.3

547.4

Mandalay

201

182

3.7

673.4

Shan State

533

526

3.1

1630.6

Total

1854

946

-

2851.4

Table 3. Production Status of Plum in 1996-97

State/Division

Cultivated
Area (ha)

Harvested
Area (ha)

Yield/Tons/ha

Total Production
in Tons

Kachin State

10.1

10.1

3.23

32.62

Chin State

91.5

90.3

0.81

73.14

Mandalay

267.2

234.8

0.89

208.97

Shan State

608.5

597.6

0.82

490.03

Total

977.3

932.8

-

804.76


Apple cultivation is limited to the area of the mountains above 1200 m elevation. The existing cultivars inclusive of local cultivars are:- Delicious, Kamnang, Kumdong, Kojuku, Leidown, Leiluum, Sainum, Awti and Kammay. Introductions of new apple cultivars were made through the FAO and NGO (GRET) projects mostly from Europe, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. The new cultivars include Gala, Fuji, Idared, Akane, Malrose, Jonagold, Hung Yan Shwe, Delicious, Vistabella, Pommed’Adam and Reinette du Mans. Initially, 27 apple cultivars were introduced through the GRET program and planted in the Chin State for preliminary studies. Among these, 6 cultivars showed promise and these have been under detailed observation for multiplication and distribution since 1996. These introductions were raised on the local Hashabi rootstock.

Asian pear is more popular than apple among Myanmar consumers. All existing cultivars of Asian pear have rounded fruit shapes and are poor in fruit quality. The fruit is lower priced than apple in all growing regions. Local cultivars have been named according to their fruit skin color. There are two distinct local cultivars of rounded green and rounded brown skin types. Traditionally, pears have been propagated by grafting on local, wild pear rootstock.

During the 1960s, some pear cultivars were introduced to Chin State. However, only the Nijuseki cultivar survived. New pear cultivars were introduced again in 1992-93 and 1994-95 through the GRET project and the help of some private individuals. These cultivars included Conference, P. Cornelle, Beure Danjou, Beure Bachalier, Hoshi Nashi, Sinsaki Nashi, Chojuro Nashi, Hwang Kam Bae, Kam Chung Bae and one other cultivar from Southern China. In Shan State, some old pear orchards in poor condition can be seen along the roadsides. Cultivar improvement, training and pruning methods were rarely practiced in most pear growing areas.

Other commonly grown deciduous fruits are the damson plum, Japanese apricot and persimmon. Plum and Japanese apricot are usually produced for preservation, especially as dehydrated and salted preparations and not for the fresh fruit market. Most cultivars produced are local and somewhat inferior in quality. Trees are propagated by seed collected without selection from growers’ own trees. No vegetative propagation methods have been applied to either of these crops. Persimmon trees are usually propagated by grafting using local cultivars as rootstocks. However, the growing area of persimmon is limited to localities where Chinese communities live. The area under Japanese apricot and plum is increasing yearly due to the growing demand for preservation purposes. The hilly regions around 1000 m elevation seem to be suitable for these two fruits in Myanmar. The production area under Japanese apricot is concentrated in Shan State at the border areas with China and Thailand with some production in the Mandalay division. Although peaches can be seen in Shan and Chin States, the plant was earlier grown as an ornamental crop with little use as fresh fruit. The cultivars grown were local and semi-wild with large seed and thin flesh.

3. PRODUCTION OF PLANTING MATERIAL

Except apple, pear and persimmon, other deciduous fruits were commonly grown from seedlings raised by growers themselves. No commercial nurseries were established for these fruits. Cultivar selection, breeding, selection of suitable rootstocks and grafting methods had not been started until recently. The Myanmar Agricultural Service started cultivar selection and a topworking program in 1994-95 for apple and pear in Chin State and Shan State. The GRET project has an active program for apple and pear cultivar selection and adoption of new cultural techniques in Chin State. For apple and pear, the Myanmar Agricultural Service has established 4 nurseries for seedling production and testing of newly introduced cultivars, two in Southern and Eastern Shan State and two in Chin State. Topworking was also demonstrated in the Southern Shan State using the Nijuseki cultivar. Seedlings of selected trees of plum and Japanese apricot were raised in the Government horticultural farms in Shan State for distribution to border areas. A Chinese pear cultivar was introduced and a propagation program was initiated to expand the areas under this crop in Shan and Kachin States.

4. ESTABLISHMENT OF ORCHARDS

Most deciduous fruits are grown predominantly in home gardens. No commercial orchards have been established in the country. Old pear orchards of reasonable extents in Southern Shan State were converted to residential areas or other crops. Apples were mostly grown at elevations above 1200 m on hill slopes.

Terracing, contour bunding and other hillside conservation practices were recently introduced for deciduous fruit culture in Chin, Kachin and Shan States under a program of development for border areas and tribal communities. The planting material, grafted plants as well as seedlings which are at least one year old, are used in most deciduous fruits. The planting season is usually at the start of the monsoon, normally in June. Plants are mostly raised with rain water during the growing period and supplementary irrigation is rarely practiced. No training or pruning had been practiced in old apple and pear orchards. However, the newly established trees are being trained using the open center and central leader systems in apple and the latter system is also used for pears. The Y method of training has also been recently introduced for pears. Plums, peaches and Japanese apricots are grown without any training or pruning in most areas. Major pests of apple and pear in Myanmar are fruit fly, stem-borer and aphids; economically damaging diseases are scab, powdery mildew and canker. For pest control, available insecticides are sprayed and no specific control measures are practiced for diseases.

5. INTERCROPPING

During the early growth period of orchards, usually up to 3 years, intercropping with annual crops is normally practiced in all growing areas. The major intercropping is carried out using crops such as corn, soybean and niger seed. Leafy vegetables and legumes are also grown on a small scale as cash crops in some areas.

6. HARVESTING AND YIELDS

Most deciduous fruits commence flowering in January and the fruits mature during the rainy season in July-August. Apples and pears are harvested when fully mature, when distinct fruit color develops (characteristic of each cultivar). Plums are harvested when fully mature but before fruit color appears. Japanese apricot is usually harvested before the mature stage. Because of the lack of proper cultural practices, quality and yield of all existing deciduous fruits grown in the country leave much to be desired. Yields and total production are given in Tables 1, 2 and 3.

7. MARKETING

Most deciduous fruits are consumed locally. Some apples and pears are transported to big cities for the fresh fruit market. Plums and apricots are usually sold locally for preservation purposes. The demand for apple is gradually increasing in urban markets and good quality fruits are being imported to meet local demand. About 6-10 tons of apple have been imported in 1995-96 from China.

8. PROCESSING

Because of low quality, poor handling and marketing practices, most pears produced in Chin State are used for processing. This includes making alcoholic beverages like wine or processing into jam. Apple juice is made from the local apple in Chin State. Pear produced in Shan State is not used for processing or preservation purposes, but is usually consumed as fresh fruit and fetches low prices. The fruits of plums are usually converted to salted pickles and wine. Japanese apricots are processed locally into dehydrated and salted fruit. All deciduous fruits grown in Myanmar are processed at home level as there is no commercial canning factory for these fruits. Local growers have been trained in fruit processing methods under the GRET program, especially in Chin State.

9. POTENTIAL FOR DECIDUOUS FRUIT PRODUCTION DEVELOPMENT

Myanmar has limited land resources available for deciduous fruit crops as these crops require specific climatic conditions for proper fruit production. In many hilly areas, improper land use methods adopted during colonial days have resulted in degradation of land to a level that will not allow any crop production. In order to avoid any recurrence of such activities, steps are being taken for strict adherence to terraced cultivation and conservation farming methods in the hilly areas. Most deciduous fruit crops are now being grown on the contour in terraced fields. Expansion of area under deciduous fruits is still possible in these hilly areas. Proper growing techniques should however, be practiced to increase production and improve fruit quality. There is a substantial increase in demand for deciduous fruits in domestic markets which warrant expansion of extents under these crops. Rejuvenation of existing old orchards and topworking with superior cultivars can also help in improving production levels and fruit quality.

10. CONSTRAINTS IN DECIDUOUS FRUIT PRODUCTION DEVELOPMENT

The major constraints in deciduous fruit production development in Myanmar are: a) lack of a serious cultivar selection program; b) lack of suitable rootstocks and propagation methods; and c) lack of proper research and technology transfer programs for each fruit and region.

Farmers at present grow these crops using traditional methods, without any knowledge of new technologies that have been developed for training, pruning, fertilization, fruit thinning, etc. Poor road infrastructure, transport and irrigation facilities are also major constraints in development of remote areas adjacent to the country’s borders.

11. PLANS FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF DECIDUOUS FRUITS

The Myanmar Agricultural Service of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation has been making efforts to increase the growing area and production of deciduous fruits in the hilly regions where suitable climatic conditions exist for these fruits. Specific sites and potential locations have been surveyed and identified for growing these crops. Fruit production zones have been demarcated according to agro-climatic conditions for each region and crop. The expansion plans include high potential border areas. Demonstration farms and training facilities have been established in these areas. Distribution of planting material of good quality fruit cultivars, training and dissemination of appropriate technical information are major activities in the border areas to promote crop production including deciduous fruits.

Research plans include evaluation of cultivars, fertilizer investigations, training and pruning studies, etc. New germplasm of apples, pears and some peaches was introduced from abroad through Government and Non-government organizations. Changing existing cultivars through a program of topworking has also been carried out. One short-term trained senior scientist has been assigned to coordinate and monitor this program.

12. CONCLUSION

Myanmar with its rich natural resources and favorable agro-climatic conditions can expand the existing deciduous fruit growing area in the near future. The hilly areas have the potential to develop deciduous fruit production. Training of growers in deciduous fruit growing techniques will enhance quality fruit production and improve the economic status of the growers.

significantly to the horticulture economy of India. Apple production dominates the scene and systematic cultivation and marketing of apple can change the rural economy in the hills of North-Western India. New vision and concerted efforts are required for change in variety mix, supply of quality planting material from elite clones on indexed clonal rootstocks. High density planting, water management including micro-irrigation, integrated plant nutrient management and IPM strategy for plant protection are some of the areas which need greater R&D focus. Adoption of post-harvest management practices and infrastructure development for grading, packaging, pre-cooling and storage of the produce needs focused developmental attention. Value addition and export promotion, particularly of apple are drawing due attention of the developmental agencies in India.


3. Jiro


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