Chinese Investment into Tissue-Culture Banana Plantations in Kachin State, Myanmar
In the last decade, Myanmar’s Kachin State has seen a boom in tissue-culture banana plantations driven by cross-border Chinese investors. This Case Study compiles field research and publicly available knowledge about the scale of the production and its economic, social and environmental consequences. The study provides a detailed snapshot of the investment model and key actors in Kachin State, the methods of land access, landscape outcomes, and experiences of plantation workers.
Land conversion to banana plantations has dramatically increased in recent years, covering an estimated 170,000 ha across Kachin State in 2019 according to civil society and local government sources. In the same year, official export figures to China reached almost 734,000 tons. The high potential return of banana over a short period of time explains the rapid expansion of the crop and the related rush to acquire land. For this purpose, Chinese investors have established intricate business networks, including links to the State government, military, and militia groups to access land. Banana plantations are commonly set up in places with contested land rights, including conflict areas and lands vacated by Internally Displaced People. Although a range of formal and informal fees are applied, it is likely that many exporters find ways to avoid official tax payments under the cover of the opaque investment environment in which they operate. In response to widening concerns and debate over the social, environmental, and land rights issues surrounding banana plantations, the Kachin State government has begun to draft legislation to manage more effectively banana plantation investments and negative outcomes. The report provides recommendations to better regulate the business in the short and medium term.