The elephant foot yam, also known as the whitesport Giant Arum, which is largely grown in the Chin State in Myanmar, failed to meet foreign demand because of the crop’s inferior quality this year.
“Agricultural experts from Japan visited Myanmar and found the quality of elephant foot yams in Myanmar was better than those in Indonesia. Therefore, Japan bought as many elephant foot yams as Myanmar could supply. Japan prefers to buy the dry elephant foot yam variety. However, the quality of elephant foot yams has declined because the local farmers are still using traditional methods of storage,” said U Ma Nar Lein, an elephant foot yam trader from Pan Awe Village, Mindat Township.
“Currently, Japan has permitted 240 metric tonnes of elephant foot yam imports from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka. If the number crosses 240 metric tonnes, Japan will collect US$29 per kilogram as tax,” he added. Elephant foot yams are found across Chin State, but the Mindat and Kanpetlet townships produce the highest quality fruit. The yams are then sent to Mandalay and Muse. India, South Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan regularly buy elephant foot yam powder. Therefore, the value-added powder is manufactured by the locals of the Mindat township.
There are three types of elephant foot yams: white, yellow and red. Yellow and red are popular export items to China and Japan. Elephant foot yams grow naturally in Chin State but are now cultivated systematically as they have become a cash crop with foreign demand.
Zo Hay Hsar