Agriculture and Food Safety
Fishery is an integral part of Myanmar’s economy. According to a 2016 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization, fishing is the main livelihood of over one million fishers in the country. Likewise, not only is fish a staple in Burmese meals, but it is also a prime export product.
In the Tanintharyi region where the Dawei district sits, fishery is more than a livelihood – it is interwoven in people’s lifestyle. It is no wonder then that in Luang Long Township alone of Dawei, there are already four mackerel clusters operating independently, covering the villages of Pyin, Kampani, Thabouk and Kyauk Sin. And while there is strength in numbers, the dispersed efforts of these four clusters did not lend much to achieving the results they wanted.
On September 12 – 17, 2017, members of the Dawei District Fishery Federation (DDFF) attended MI’s regional training on SME Cluster Development and Export Consortia Formation. From that training the members decided to bring together the four fishery clusters operating in their district. Their objective was simple: to achieve more.
The plan for integration was a smart move especially given the current challenges for the fishery sector in Dawei. For one, there has been an expressed need for improved basic infrastructure such as boat jetties and warehouses. Local fishers could also benefit from up-to-date knowledge on quality control and effective fishery production processes.
The clusters’ integration would enable them to establish a sustainable export-based fishery sector in the district. Together, the group can devise a collective approach to improve production mechanisms, including pooling together their resources to invest in better fishing facilities and equipment. The increase in cluster members as a result of the integration would also mean a broader network for sharing knowledge and information on topics like marketing and business operations.
But more importantly, a unified group means a stronger negotiation power for the sector as a whole when dealing with government, buyers and investors. Currently, fishery products from Dawei are exported only to China and neighboring Thailand. And while there is a high potential to expand to larger markets like Japan and South Korea, the sector is hindered by trade barriers and quality control issues. An integrated cluster means a more consolidated capacity for the sector to address these issues – and more.
Six months after the integration, work continues. The cluster is developing agreements in order to get stronger support for the mackerel sector from the central government and non-profit organizations. Members are also keen to learn more about branding, packaging, and financial and member management, topics that will strengthen their organization and increase their chances of expanding into broader markets. Keeping this goal in mind, they want to explore networks with potential entrepreneurs from within Myanmar and Thailand, as well as share lessons with other business clusters from other ASEAN countries. The members also are working together in collecting baseline data to better understand the situation of the Dawei fishery sector and develop their sector further.
There is strength to be gained from a collective voice and when more minds and hands come together. The integration of the mackerel clusters in Dawei is an inspiration and a lesson to other SME clusters that together, everyone achieves more.
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