Myanmar Vegetable Seeds Market – Open for Opportunities

The vegetable seeds market in Myanmar has been active for many years however, since the transition to an elected government there has been a rush to access better quality varieties. Currently the market is dominated by seed traders who distribute seeds from larger seed companies. As such varieties from other countries, mainly Thailand, India and China, dominate the markets. However, the market segments are largely undefined and currently many traders are selling whatever varieties they can access outside Myanmar into the local markets. This is seen with watermelon where the majority of fruit grown in the country is exported to China. In some cases, all fruit is exported especially those varieties grown in the northern areas. This is also the case with many of the melon varieties grown in the country as well. As such the local market sells what can only be referred to as the “spill over” from the export market. This is not necessarily reflected in other market segments, however all segments, with the exception of some local selections of tomato (eg. 40 – 60 gram green types and some pepper types for the fresh and dried markets), are now more and more being dominated by imported varieties. Local traders are “hungry” for quality seeds of new varieties that they can sell into the market. With the exception of a few players, seed companies from outside the country have not had a local presence, instead supplying local traders, some on an exclusive basis. This has, in part, continued on from the era of embargoes on companies trading with the then military regime. Now with the “apparent legitimate” government, or perhaps it is the armed forces’ generals who realise that there is more money to be made from corrupting the “democratic” system, more and more international and regional companies are starting to install their own local entities, rather than rely on local traders.

Regardless, the vegetable seeds market is open for new and innovative varieties that could define new and lucrative segments. Currently many of the segments are either loosely defined or are just so wide open that different varieties or segment types are being sold into the same market. This is seen with tomatoes grown on Inlay Lake where a range of fruit sizes, from 40 g to 100 g on determinate, semi-determinate and indeterminate varieties, are selling into the same market. What differentiates them is largely disease resistance and farmers are risking growing a mixed crop, including the higher value 100 g plus indeterminate types, in the hope that they will not die, for which they can get a higher price for the fruit in the market. What is somewhat of a concern though is that most seed traders are not aware of market segments and what differentiates them. However, this perhaps is not unusual for immature markets and plays into the hands of regional and international seed companies who have the R&D experience and extensive portfolio to assume dominance. Outside Inlay Lake the role diseases play in defining the market segments is less obvious as many diseases common in other countries in the region either are not evident, the pressure is low or the isolates present have low pathogenicity. This will no doubt change over time as more and more vegetables are cultivated in the country.

Based on observations there are three main cucumber types that sell into the same segment: 30 cm bicolour with up to five fruit per plant, 20 cm bi-colour with 5 to 10 fruit per plant and 10 cm bi-colour 15 to 20 fruit per plant. The farmers will apparently grow all three types but prefer the 30 cm type as they can sell the fruit in the market at a higher price (up to five times that of the 20 cm fruit. Chia Tai varieties, sold through a number of distributors, are the most popular. As I didn’t really get to see many farmers’ fields it was difficult to assess diseases but angular leafspot (Pseudomonas Syringae) and downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) were evident.

Upright, 5 – 10 cm green, hot peppers dominate the market however there are also 3 – 5 cm Capsicum chinense OP varieties as well as bell peppers and 15 – 20 cm more traditional types for fresh and drying/processing. Interestingly for the upright varieties the market trend is for very dark green fruit with some sold as both fresh as well as dried. Some upright varieties are also sold as red.

While the market in Thailand has been for light green, 30 cm long, shoulder varieties with continuous warts, 20 cm Palee types dominate the market.

Indian types dominate the market which appears to be very small. There are multiple reports of Geminivirus-type symptoms which, at least from some reports, has pushed some farmers to grow other crops.

Yard Long Bean
The YLB market appears to be more defined with their being a clear demarcation between the northern and central/southern markets. Both markets prefer 60 cm long fruit with either brown, black or white seeds. There are reports of major rust issues in some areas.

Whereas in neighbouring countries there is a huge variation of types (size, shape, colour) many with very specific markets, the Myanmar market is dominated by purple types with a purple/green bicolour teardrop.

30 cm, bi-colourcucumberChia Tai varieties dominate.
20 cm, bi-colour
10 cm bi-colour
5 - 10 cm, fresh, green, uprightThree types selling into the same segment. Also drying some of the varieties. Mainly green (immature) but some red.Market leader is Demon (East-West)
5 - 10 cm, dried, green, upright
5 - 10 cm, dried, dark green, upright
10 cm, bell, fresh
15 - 20 cm, fresh
3 - 5 cm, light green-red, upright, Capsicum chinense, OP
Bittergourd20 cm Palee type
Tomato60 g, red, fresh
40 - 60 g, green, freshSells in market as green, but some matured to red
100 g, red, freshHigher price in the market but varieties commonly grown are not EB and LB resistant.
40 g, fresh/processing, red-pink
Okra20 - 25 cm, light green, India typeReports of virus issues (leaf vein yellowing and leaf yellowing Ð assume Geminiviruses) but not confirmed
Chinese Cabbage
30 - 40 cm, light greenMainly imported from China
Carrot20 - 30 cm, orangeImported from China
20 - 30 cm, dark purple
20 - 30 cm, purple
10 - 15 cm, tear-drop, purple/green bi-colour
Yard Long Bean
60 cm, light green fruit with brown, black and white seedsSold into the north Myanmar market
60 cm, green fruit with brown, black and white seedsSold into the central and southern markets
Crimson type, 5 - 10 kg, red flesh, seededMajority sold into China
Sugar baby type, 5 - 10 kg, red flesh, seededMajority sold into China
Moschata, smooth skin, 5 - 10 kg

Figure 1. (a) Examples of hot pepper types: 3 – 5 cm Chinense OP, 5 – 10 cm dark green/fresh/drying and 5 – 10 cm green/red/fresh. (b) 5 – 10 cm red/fresh.


Figure 2. Green 10 cm bell peppers and 15 – 20 cm green peppers.


Figure 3. Eggplant types tear-drop bi-colour type and 30 cm dark purple.


Figure 4. Okra, 20 – 25 cm, light green, India type (right) and cucumber 20 cm, bi-colour – centre and 10 cm, bi-colour – right front.


Figure 5. Yard long bean 60 cm, green.


Figure 6. Watermelon types: sugar baby and crimson sweet types (all seeded). The majority are sold into China.


Figure 7. Some pumpkin types sold into the market. Wax gourd in front.


Figure 8. Bittergourd (foreground), Palee type, sold into the market.


Figure 9. Cucumber, bicolour, 30 cm (centre) and 20 cm (right) sold into the market. Okra on the left.