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Exposing Myanmar’s F&B Companies to Cleaner Production

On 31 August 2018, "Tha Bar Wa" a project promoting sustainable energy and water management, held its first technical workshop for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Myanmar’s Food and Beverages (F&B) sector. The project is implemented by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in partnership with Myanmar Food Processors and Exporters Association (MFPEA) and Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC).

More than 90 professionals from 41 SMEs in the Yangon region attended the training that took place in Yangon at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).

In the midst of its current development process, Myanmar is experiencing significant industrial development. It is critical that growth embraces and sustains an environmentally cautious approach, in order to preserve the country’s natural resources and ensure sustainable and shared gains from the ongoing progress.

The activity on 31 August exposed local F&B SMEs to the basic principles and practices of cleaner production (CP), intended as “the continuous application of an integrated, preventive environmental strategy towards processes, products and services in order to increase overall efficiency and reduce damage and risks for humans and the environment” (UNEP). Dr Mu Mu Htay, the project’s Cleaner Production Officer, illustrated examples and success stories of CP application in F&B companies across developing countries, highlighting the ensuing benefits in terms of occupational health and safety, reputational branding, resource efficiency, financial savings and regulatory compliance.

For instance, she shared the example of a coconut desiccating company in Sri Lanka that was able to save USD 6,600 in one year by reducing its water consumption thanks to improved process and cleaning practices which had required an upfront investment of USD 500. The company halved its wastewater volume and additionally saved USD 165,000 per year by switching from fossil fuel to coconut shells, with an initial investment of USD 1,450. This measure enabled the company to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 900 tons in the first year with a one-month return on investment.
U Sein Thaung Oo, MFPEA Vice-Chairman, provided an overview of Myanmar’s environmental regulations pertaining to industrial operations. He addressed the 2012 Environmental Conservation Law, 2014 Environmental Conservation Rules, 2015 Environmental Quality Guidelines and Impact Assessment Producers. He also described concepts and procedures related to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP). To reinforce his message, he complemented his overview with examples of social complaints filed against non compliant companies that suffered from temporary suspension of industrial activities, reputational damages and legal problems.

U Than Oo, UNIDO’s Energy Efficiency Expert, and Prof. Lat Lat Tun from Yangon Technological University, delved into the project’s technical intervention areas, namely energy efficiency and wastewater management.

U Than Oo introduced participants to the concepts and practices of energy management system and energy system optimisation. Prof. Tun described different wastewater treatment processes, explaining their specific features and criteria to consider in the selection phase.

Examples she provided include wastewater improvement interventions conducted at SMEs in the Yangon region in partnership with WWF since 2016. Prof. Tun assisted 4 different F&B companies to identify, acquire and install enhanced wastewater treatments after receiving international know-how with the assistance of WWF.

For most of the participating SMEs, the workshop concepts are new and their implementation may appear complex and costly, especially in the traditionally resource-constrained context of small enterprises. Yet CP includes a lot of simple measures that are feasible at low or no costs and generate meaningful yields in short spans of time.

This was further elaborated via an interactive session where participants, divided into groups, were invited to identify and calculate energy saving scenarios for allocated case studies. Participants engaged very actively in the group exercises, debating options, raising clarifying questions and improving their understanding of CP applied to SMEs. As a result, one third of them already signed up for the project’s next round of activities, where SMEs will be assisted on site to estimate their current resource consumption and identify more efficient processes and technologies.

“Tha Bar Wa” is one of the grant projects funded by the European Union (EU) under the SWITCH-Asia programme to promote sustainable consumption and production (SCP) in developing countries in Asia.

The four-year project intends to increase awareness among Myanmar’s F&B SMEs about the relevance of cleaner production processes. The F&B sector is the largest industry in Myanmar, with 60% of the companies in the country being F&B producers. Yet it is estimated that approximately 95% of them lack a functioning wastewater system, with negative repercussions on water quality, ecosystem preservation and neighbourhood relations. Furthermore, in a country where only 37% of the population benefit of access to electricity, companies experience on average three power cuts per week, which makes it all the more crucial to optimise their energy use.

By improving resource efficiency and management, cleaner production practices minimise negative environmental impacts and enhance corporate productivity. “Tha Bar Wa” will support target companies to identify suitable technological solutions to improve their resource management as well as to apply for and access “green finance” from local financing institutions.