Myanmar entrepreneur empowers rural communities

19 October 2023
ITC News

“When I analysed the world honey market prices, especially for Manuka Honey, I realized there was a range of varieties and prices. When we sold our products to Hong Kong, we could achieve a very good price. I believe that is because of the quality, packaging design and branding of our honey products,” highlights Ms. Thida Win, CEO of Plan Bee social enterprise after securing a deal with a buyer from Hong Kong.

Equipped with knowledge and skills from a workshop on trade fair preparation and participation, Plan Bee was well-prepared to take part in the renowned SIAL (Salon International de l'Alimentation) trade fair in France.

Recognized as one of the prominent events in the food processing industry, SIAL provided an excellent platform for Plan Bee to showcase its honey products and create new business opportunities and market linkages.

Social side

Although Plan Bee Social Enterprise is a small business, it prioritizes the responsible and organic production of honey in the Southern Shan State of Myanmar.

The enterprise aims to improve the livelihoods of farmers in rural communities, creating a sustainable and high-quality organic honey industry that puts Myanmar on the map as a honey-producing nation.

Ms. Win believes in empowering her community by sharing the international success of her business with small-holder beekeepers.

She holds their hand to achieve higher prices for their products through branding, packaging, and quality control, and positioning the honey in higher-end markets.

Plan Bee reinvests profits in training new beekeepers every year, which encourages small farmers to switch to full time commercial beekeeping. Plan Bee currently has a network of around 50 beekeepers, who provide training and work experience opportunities for young people from rural areas, enabling them to become commercial beekeepers. The enterprise focuses on empowering small-scale honey producers by reinvesting profits.

Plan Bee’s engagement helps maintain jobs in the region and supports beekeepers through challenging times.

Support from ARISE Plus Myanmar

ARISE+ Myanmar, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC), supports Plan Bee Social Enterprise in setting up a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plan and getting HACCP certified. This ensures and guarantees proper food safety management, which is crucial for a premium natural food item like honey.

In addition to participating in international trade fairs, Plan Bee actively engages in trainings and workshops on areas such as food quality and safety, trade agreements and market access, environmental sustainability standards, Intellectual Property (IP) rights, e-Commerce and marketing and branding.

“The branding and marketing coaching programme has been very helpful to our enterprise. Over the six-month coaching, we could adjust our product branding and update our marketing materials with a new logo design, to attract local and international buyers. The new logo also captures the spirit of our social enterprise in the honey sector.”

Ms. Win is convinced that the project support helped her to achieve higher sales prices.

Looking ahead

Ms. Win acknowledges the importance of expanding Plan Bee’s market access to foreign markets. “A product with the same quality and packaging can be sold in Myanmar at a lower price only. So, if we can expand our sales to foreign markets, it is even better for our business, and this is exactly what we are focusing on now.”

With the newfound connections and market opportunities, Plan Bee is set to make a broader impact in the global honey business community.