February 5 - 11 , 2007 Myanmar's first international weekly © Volume 18, No. 353

Local produce market ripens

By Zaw Win Than
A boy smiles at the camera at one of the stalls on Inya Road in Yangon.

MYANMAR produces a rich variety of fruits and vegetables, a sector of the agricultural industry which stands to gain from a growing awareness of the benefits of eating fresh produce.

As well as tropical fruit such as mangoes, papaya, durian, bananas, custard apples and pineapples, Myanmar produces many different types of introduced fruit and vegetables. The uplands around Pyin Oo Lwin are renowned for their strawberries, avocados are produced in the Inle Lake region, table grapes around Meiktila and tomatoes in the highlands of Shan State, where cabbages and potatoes are also cultivated.

In Yangon, the biggest wholesale and retail centre for fruit and vegetables is Thirimingalar market in Ahlone township, which features produce from throughout the country, though much of it comes from Ayeyarwady and Bago divisions.

Competitive prices attract throngs of customers to the bustling market on the Yangon River, where many growers sell their produce directly to consumers.
Daw San Yu regularly makes the journey from Yankin township to shop at the market for her family. “This is a one-stop market for fruit and vegetables in Yangon and all the fruit and vegetables here are fresh and cheap,” she said.

An impressive range of fresh produce is available at the market. Ko Kyaw Thu, who runs a wholesale and retail business there, sells domestically-grown and imported produce.

“At this time of the year we have potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots, green mangoes, cauliflower, baby corn, beans, peas, chilies, lady fingers (okra), celery, leeks, cucumbers and more,” he said, adding that most customers were vendors who either have businesses at other markets or sell at roadside stalls, such as the one of Inya Road.

The owner of a stall on 40th Street provides a typical example. “I sell mushrooms, carrots, cabbages, beans, peas, cauliflower, baby corn, and lady fingers,” he said. “I buy mainly from Thirimingalar market and sell from my stall in the evening; most of my regular customers are office workers.”

Some of the best quality locally-grown and imported fruit and vegetables can be found at the cluster of stalls on Inya Road. Produce available at the stalls includes apples, oranges, honeydew melons, strawberries, blueberries, plums and pomeloes, as well as tropical fruit.

Most of the customers at the Inya Road outlets are well-to-do Myanmar or foreigners.

It is not just the tastes, textures, flavours and even aromas of fruit and vegetables which appeals to many consumers; health benefits are also a factor.

“Fruit and vegetables will keep you healthy and fight off the ageing process and should be eaten every day,” said nutritionist Dr Sithu, who has a clinic on 46th Street in downtown Yangon.

“The benefits of eating fruit and vegetables are endless and include a reduced risk of contracting some types of cancer, reduced cholesterol levels, a strengthened immune system, and strong bones and teeth,” he said.

Ko Zaw Zaw, a first-year student at the Institute of Medicine (1) in downtown Yangon, said he increased his intake of fruit and vegetables on the advice of his family doctor, who said it would have a positive effect on his brain function.
“If you want to stimulate your brain function you should eat a lot of fresh fruit and carrots,” he said.

For Ma Zarchi, a beautician in Bahan township, the key to good health is to eat fresh produce of different colours.

“Eating fruit and vegetables of different colours has a range of benefits, including an increased intake of fibre (which is beneficial for the digestive system) as well as nutrients such as potassium and vitamins A and C,” she said.

For Daw Khin Hla, 75, of Mingalar Taung Nyunt township, the benefits of fruit and vegetables are obvious.

“When I was 40 I became a vegetarian and I feel as fit and healthy as ever,” she said.

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