Kachin State - Northern Myanmar- is witnessing a boom in commercial banana cultivation, which is driven by investments from China. According to a report by the Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG), the volume of bananas exported to China has jumped from less than 100,000 tons in 2015-16 to 733,949 tons in 2019-20. As of 2019, the report states, banana plantations covered an estimated 170,000 hectares across Kachin State.
Most of the plantations operate on a model in which agricultural inputs, financing, and some labor are sent from China, with land and further labor sourced from within Myanmar. The harvested fruit is then shipped over the border and sold on the Chinese market.
To open up more land to cultivation, the report details how Chinese investors -both large enterprises and small-scale investors- have established an intricate mesh of connections with local business networks.
This rapid expansion of banana cultivation in Kachin State has come at a cost. The report states that the intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the plantations has led to major environmental and health impacts.