Mekong Institute Publications is available on-line as well as in person. Please click on the topic from categories below you are interested in.
If you have questions or requests for information on a specific GMS country, please send an email to email@example.com
National Consultation report on Enabling Regulatory Environment for Facilitating Cross-Border Trade Along the GMS East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC)
Trade and Investment Facilitation,
Capacity Development Training Program on Trade Promotion and International Agreements
Written by Mekong Institute
The training on “Trade Promotion and International Agreements” was organized at Huu NghiHotel, Dong Ha, Quang Tri on October 19 -23, 2015. This program aims to enhance theparticipants’ capacity in stimulating local economic development via cross-border trade which isrelevant for Quang Tri. The five day training program was taken part by 1 7 senior and mid-levelofficials from government agencies of Quang Tri Province. Among them, 15 participantssuccessfully completed the whole training program. There were altogether five modules coveredin the training. Module 1 introduced the participants with the framework of GMS Cooperationand EWEC Economic Corridor Development highlighting the involvement of Vietnam andQuang Tri in general. Module 2 exposed the participants to the policies, strategies and practicesin trade promotion and facilitation of Quang Tri Province. Module 3 familiarized the participantswith the international and regional agreements which exerted impacts towards the trade sectordevelopment of Quang Tri Province. Finally, Module 4 concluded the training by explaininghow local economies should prepare ahead to embrace the upcoming ASEAN EconomicCommunity (AEC). As the outputs of the training, the participants managed to come up with theproposals of four action plans that could be beneficial towards trade promotion development inQuang Tri Province. The evaluation results of the training demonstrated that the participantswere highly appreciative of the training and it provided the reference to conclude the trainingachieved its objectives. Through a thorough review on the feedbacks of the participants, a set ofrecommendations were made ; such as integrating SLV in the course , inviting participants fromthe private sector and the implementation of the training outside of Dong Ha ; in order toenhance the effectiveness of the training.
Post-Conflict Approaches towards Local Economic Development in Kayin State, Myanmar
Written by Mekong Institute
The Mekong Institute conducted a 5-day training programme on “Post-Conflict Approaches towards Local Economic Development in Kayin State, Myanmar” on August 28- September 1, 2015. Fifteen participants from different government agencies and private sector attended the training. The training aimed to strengthen the skills of the local economic development actors in Kayin State which are necessary to facilitate economic stimulation in the area.
The training took place at Grand Hill Hotel, Hpa-an, Kayin State. Mr.Thuta Aung, the Trainer, Ms. Than Tha Aung, the program facilitator from Mekong Institute, Dr. Thet Thet Mar and Dr. Khin Myat Soe from RLED-EWEC Myanmar office, contributed to the design and delivery of the program with their technical expertise. The training was composed of five modules. Module 1 on Investment Promotion aimed to expose the participant to the concepts of investment promotion and by examining how to effective communicate the opportunities to potential investor to bring in responsible investments into Kayin State. Module 2 on “ASEAN Economic Community and National Export Strategy” was to familiarize the participants with contemporary issues surrounding AEC at the regional level and the NES at the country level. Module 3 on “Private-Public- Partnership and Post Conflict Economic Reconstruction” provided case studies of other countries and creation hypothetical scenarios for Kayin State in the future. Module 4 explored the role of government in stimulating economic development encouraging enterprises and entrepreneurship. The monitoring and evaluation tools employed throughout the program confirmed that the program’s objectives were achieved and the program was successful. Most of the participants were very satisfied with the program as shown in the total average rating by participants on the overall assessment of the training program.
As targeted by the training, this training enabled the participants to produce the action plans that could be implemented using the knowledge attained from the training. As the success of the training will also be measured by the extent in which participants are able to implement their action plans, MI have planned follow-up activities to provide technical support towards their action plan implementation
Group Management and Strengthening Farmer Organizations
Written by Mekong Institute
Group Management and Strengthening Farmer Organization is considered as one of the major challenges for the agricultural development in Laos due to agricultural contribution to GDP is about 26-30% annually.At present, Lao PDRs has almost 3,630 farmer groups (FGs) with 1,864 of plantation and 1,776 of feeding groups, most of them are weak with few members, unstable and limited access to credit and market. Therefore, DAEC have the opportunity to coordinate with MI to conduct a TOT training in Khammouan province for both farmer leader and local government staff with the aim to increase their skills and experiences on necessary technics, government policy and management system for further strengthening of farmer organizations in local areas. The course program was conducted in 7 days from 10-16 March, 2015 including lectures and one-day field visit, group discussion and group action plan development. More than 14 topics have been covered and delivered to 25 participant whose came from PAFO and DAFO, Rice Mill Association and farmer groups. The field visit to successful farmer groups in Sakonnakhon, Thailand including cattle fattening group at Tayeam village and None Yangkham’s cooperatives helped participants learn about group management, production, quality and quantity control among members, value chain, access to credit and market for the sustainability of running group’s business. After the training program, most participants have improved their skills and knowledge as shown in the self-assessment result from 13% at the beginning of the course to 70% at the end. The final evaluation indicated that they can apply what they have learnt to support and improve farmers’ activities in pilot project sites
Group Managment and Strengthening Farmer Organizations
Written by Mekong Institute
This Training of Trainers (TOT) program aims to enhance the capacity of MI partners in pilot provincial sites to become effective capacity development providers and trainers to target local stakeholders, particularly farmers, SMEs, local economic development government officials and agribusiness development service providers. This TOT enables the participants: (i) To localize and deliver this specific training course to target local stakeholders so that jointly they can plan, implement, monitor and evaluate the performance of farmer groups/organizations; and (ii) To acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes to become effective in their changing roles as facilitators, coordinators and service providers in the pilot project sites.
The training was conducted from 8 March to 14 March by Dr. Le Thi Hoa Sen, Senior Researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Extension and Rural Development (FERD) and Msc. Nguyen Thien Tam, lecturer and Head of the Department of Rural Economy, FERD, Hue University, Vietnam. They both have extensive experience in conducting TOT and working with farmer organizations. Participants were key informants who were considered as resource people at the provincial, district and commune level to enable the strengthening of farmer organizations at the project target area.
The training course was designed with 5 modules:
Module 1: Understanding the TOT ProgramModule
2: Marketing planning for agricultural productsModule
3: Farmers’ awareness on market, market access, farming contract negotiation, production cost analysis, and estimating product’s priceModule
4: Group operation/management and sustaining farmer organizationsModule
5: Planning, monitoring, and evaluation of group operation
A half day field trip was conducted by visiting Huong Do farmer organization in Huong Phung commune, one of the most successful farmer organizations established by MI. The training was successfully organized. Although it lasted 7 days, all 18 participants attended from beginning to the end. They actively participated and contributed significantly to the training. The training evaluation demonstrated that all participants were happy with the training contents with approximately 56% of them indicating that the training contents were useful for their work, 37.5% indicated that they felt confident to apply what they learnt from the training into practice and 44% said they were able to apply the contents of the training into practice.
Myanmar Crop Selection and Value Chain Mapping Report
Written by Mekong Institute
Kayin State lies in the south-eastern part of Myanmar and is linked to Thailand. The rural people in Kayin State are poor. In rural areas there has been an on-going conflict between Kayin ethnic group and the government for several years. However, Kayin State is richly endowed with natural resources, including agricultural land for crop production, water resources and minerals (iron, copper, lead, etc.). Farmers grow a variety of crops in fields located on silted-land and on hill-sides. Paddy is the main crop of Kayin State. Most agricultural products are for local consumption. Following the cease fire in that region, border trade to Thailand opened officially six months ago. Myanmar exports agricultural products and others commodities from the interior through the cross-border transit points. Among products from Kayin State, only cash crops, maize and mung bean, are exported to Thailand through Myawaddy and Mae-sot.
This study identifies the alternative crop selections for cross border value chain study and for economic development. The study also identifies trading constraints in order to evaluate the market chains which involve all actors in agriculture production. The overriding goal is to improve the livelihoods of poor farmers by boosting their incomes. The Team interviewed key informants in government departments and in the private sector who participate in maize production and are included in farmer focal groups.
From the survey, it was apparent that almost all Maize grown in Myawaddy is exported to Thailand as raw materials. This trade passes through small traders and collectors. However, it should be noted the produce is not of high quality, mainly because of the heavy rainfall in the producing area.
Maize has market potential for farmers and there is high demand for the product from animal feed factories in Thailand. In addition to current production, the state government is planning to extend Maize production in Hpa-an, as winter crop, in collaboration with CP-Myanmar Group to produce quality products to command a higher price. In spite of the planning, there are production challenges and exporting policy constraints.
Maize is a suitable crop for cross-border exporting due to the capacity of small and medium participating farmers, market ability, easy market access, price stability and the participation of the private sector as a key element the value chain development. In addition, the Kayin State has a good potential for extending maize area due to land capacity, available irrigation system and favorable climatic conditions.
Summary of findings
Summary of key barriers in Maize value chain
- Poor physical infrastructure, especially in terms of farm road, as well as lack of drying facilities and weak facilitation of extension services lead to considerable losses of marketable production.
- Poor facilitation to set up applicable regulations in exporting product officially.
- Unstable security in the maize production area.
- Weak information sharing and facilitation in grading, classification and quality standards to differentiate product pricing and to reward farmers for producing a quality product. An important informational gap is the absence of SPS standards.
- Absence of other market quality standards and certification potentially discourages production of high quality maize.
- Weak association among farmers results in their failure to minimize the high input costs and gives them low bargaining power.
- Insufficient government facilitation in cross-border market transactions
- Absence of efficient market distribution channel for accessing agricultural inputs, particularly seeds and agro-chemicals needed to minimize production cost.
- High cost of hired labor and absence of labor saving devices.
- High input cost and total dependency on imports from Thailand. Agricultural inputs are not available at the local market.
- Absence of a transparent market transaction mechanisms for farmers to trade maize.
- Uncertain Thai government policy to import maize from Myanmar.
- High cost of transporting.
- Trading season is only 2 months per year.
- Monopsony market (single market).
- In Hpa-an, the market is at embryonic stage. There is no local collector/local dealer/ investors yet.
- All maize cross-border trade is done through informal channel which is difficult for government to provide the services and support to the informal value chain nodal players.
- Weak extension services, particularly for rural farming communities
- High use of chemical herbicides and fertilizers may have adverse affect on environment and workers. The use of these inputs will also violate SPS regulations and may prohibit imports from Myanmar in order to protect Thai growers.
- Absence of low cost facilities to help farmers measure moisture content of maize.
- Lack of know-how regarding post-harvest handling and storage techniques, resulting in low prices.
- Weak farmers associations and producing poor quality products to help pool resources and to organize community or attract investors.
- In Myawaddy, local input supplier is not present at local market. Therefore, the market information could not share effectively to small-holder farmers
- Poor on-farm storage facilities and post-harvest handling
- Lack of information about both input and output prices
- Shortage of seasonal labor
- Weak facilitation of department service providers
- Lack of experience of local traders in managing contract farming, processing and value adding activity
Rice Value Chain Analysis in Khammouane, Lao PDR
Written by Mekong Institute
This report is an integral part of the project "Capacity Development for a More Inclusive and Equitable Growth, Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)". Basically, the report integrates the findings from literature review and desk research coupled with observations and interviews conducted during field visits in March and April 2013 and supplemented by cross-examination with key players in the public and private sectors as well as development projects at various nodes of the rice value chain.
Guided by the objective of the project paper on "Value Chain Prioritizing and Selection" in Khammouane, Lao PDR, to the authors have orientated this rice value chain analysis towards assessing the current status and requirements for value chain strengthening. Sub-objectives include designing specific strategies to improve productivity, income and growth in the upstream nodes (input providers, farmers and supportive organizations of production units); in the midstream nodes (milling and other processing units); and the downstream nodes (retailers and international traders) and their impacts on commercial rice value chains in Khammouane.
At the end of rice value chain analysis, key recommendations have emerged to target increasing productivity by using good-quality seeds and modern production techniques, improving water supply management and extension services, establish grading and rice quality standards/ certification for global markets, maintaining and upgrading farm to market roads. The main recommendations are targeted on the upstream nodes of the rice value chain. For the midstream nodes expanding financial services to improve access to inputs and encouraging private firms such as miller to increase their participation in international trade and investment. At the downstream nodes, recommendations include enhancing trade facilitation and improving export processing.
Additional summary conclusions from this analysis include the following:
Summary of Key Barriers in Rice Value Chain
- High input costs and limitation of access to inputs, especially for individual smallholder farmers
- Absence of contract farming mechanisms and regulations for enforcement
- High cost of transportation as a result of poor farm-to-market roads
- Rice cross-border trade is done through single exporter; therefore there is a monophony market with insufficient competition.
- Low price of rice, caused mainly by government policies on restricting exports and expanding food security reserves
- Insufficient financial services and high interest rates result in low investment in the value chain
- Low rice milling efficiencies result from insufficient in efficient milling equipment and rice mill management.
- Uncertain rice standards and certification for global market competitiveness
- Poor physical infrastructure, especially farm-to-market roads and poorly managed irrigation systems
- Weak information sharing and facilitation in grading, classifying and standardizing to differentiate product pricing and to encourage farmers to produce good rice qualities.
- Lack of regulatory framework and enforcement of contracts.
- Weak information sharing and promotion of getting private input suppliers involved in supporting farmers to obtain better access to inputs.
- Ineffective flood management program resulting in production losses, especially during rainy season
- Weak extension services, particularly for individual farmers in rural farming communities
- Increasing and inefficient use of chemical fertilizers may have adverse affects on environment and production costs
- Absence of farm level technology, particularly to measure the moisture content of rice
- Little knowledge on post-harvest management resulting low rice prices
- Labor shortage with increasing rural wages
A Value Chain Analysis of Coffee in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam
Written by Mekong Institute
The study “A value chain analysis of coffee in Quang Tri Province” was carried out in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam from 27 March to 9 April with aims to provide understanding about the coffee value chain with regards to stakeholders engaging in the value chain and their relationship, product flow, information and knowledge flow, cost and profit patterns of value chain actors as well as factors that affect the chain such as input and logistic service, infrastructure and technology. Additionally, socio-economic factors (i.e. gender, ethnicity and poverty) are also addressed. The study serves to provide information based on which the interventions for the project “Capacity Development for a More Inclusive and Equitable Growth in the Greater Mekong Sub-region Project” funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
The study employs both qualitative and quantitative methods. Structured interviews were conducted with value chain actors (i.e. exporters, processors, collectors and farmers) on such issues as cost and profit information, productivity, resource access, marketing, policy and regulations as well as problems and constraints. In-depth interview was carried out with the supporters to understand their functions, roles and responsibilities. Focal group discussion was used to understand about the role of gender in coffee production, such as division of labor, livelihood strategies, financial decision-making and constraints and issues in the coffee production of the different social groups.
While up to 95 percent of coffee produced in Vietnam is Robusta, coffee in Huong Hoa district, Quang Tri province is mostly Arabica (Catimor variety) and a small amount of Liberica coffee. The weather in the district is favorable for the coffee variety because it rains in April – when coffee plants are in blossom. This is the reason why farmers can still produce coffee while there is no irrigation system in the area. As harvest season falls from late September – December when there is limited sunshine, coffee cherry here undergo wet processing – which is more costly but better in quality control compared with dry processing method. Coffee in Huong Hoa also follows 4C and UTZ standards. Most coffee green bean is exported to EU market (e.g. Germany, Netherland, etc). Some goes to America and Japan market. Coffee is mainly exported in form of green bean in 60kg sack. Coffee sector receives considerable supports from government because it is in line with the poverty alleviation for ethnic minority in Vietnam while many of coffee producers in Huong Hoa district belong to the ethnic minority and the poor group.
However, coffee sector in Huong Hoa district is faced with a number of constraints. First, the yield of coffee is rather low (only 10 tons of cherry/ hectare on average according to 2012 annual report of Huong Hoa District Department of Agriculture, while it can reach to 20 tons of cherry/hectare under proper cultivation techniques). One of the reasons is that about half of the coffee area is old (around 15-18 years) and need to be replaced. Especially, the coffee yield of Bru-Van Kieu farmers is even much lower due to the fact that they cannot afford to buy as much fertilizer as recommended. These are also the reasons hampering coffee quality. In terms of volume, the demand of processors is more than what producers can supply. On the one hand, this leads to high depreciation cost of the processor as their processing machines are only used during the harvesting season. On the other hand, the farmers have no incentive to produce good quality coffee cherry because processors would buy whatever quality to feed their machine. It is reported that farmers pick high percentage of green cherry than being allowed (5 percent of green cherry at maximum). They also put the coffee cherry into water to make it heavier. Fortunately, the situation is getting much better with the initiative of Inter-department Committee for Tax and Environment Regulation in Agricultural Trade by the Huong Hoa District’s People Committee.
Inaddition, there is weak linkage among different actors in the value chain to share information, commitments and risks. Farmers lack of knowledge on export quality requirements and commitments to quality standard. Processors also reported that they lack of knowledge on quality testing. Meanwhile, both actors have little information on market price and customers’ preferences in export market. They also have limited voice in price determination. As Arabica Catimor coffee in Vietnam is mainly for exports, the sector depends largely on international market. In the downturn of international coffee market, the coffee exporters in Quang Tri province also have to face with a lot of challenges.
In this regards, it will require different tailor-made capacity building packages and awareness raising activities for all actors in the value chain – farmers, collectors, processors and exporters - together with the government officers who regulate the sectors. For example, capacity building on production techniques (especially using certified seedlings and organic fertilizer) and farmer group formation targets to farmers; capacity building on product development, entrepreneurship and SMEs cluster for processors and exporters; capacity building on GAP, GMP and facilitation skills for government officers. Structure learning visit on contract farming may be a cross-cut topic for all actors as means of both knowledge and awareness raising. In so doing, the productivity and quality of coffee producers and processors will be enhanced. Meanwhile, market system is better regulated when the capacity of the officers who involved in local economic development is increased. In this manner, the value chain actors will be able to integrate more in regional and global value chain, increase their income and contribute to local and regional economic development.