On 12 February 2022, Shan Orchard Myanmar Limited became the first company in Myanmar to install and commission a new cold-pressed avocado oil processing line. The orchard—an agribusiness with the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) located in the Southern Shan State town of Heho—is now producing high quality, culinary-grade extra virgin avocado oil for use on salads and cooking. Shan Orchard also produces lower grade, crude avocado oil used for cosmetics industry.

This milestone is a major objective of the Myanmar Avocado Oil Production project, a partnership between Shan Orchard and the USAID-supported Agriculture and Food Systems Development Activity (AFDA). Structured as a co-investment partnership between public and private enterprises, this two-year project was designed to support Shan Orchard’s pioneering efforts in producing cold-pressed avocado oil on a commercial scale for the first time in Myanmar.

“This historic event is a game-changer for the Myanmar avocado industry.”

–Nathan Winn, Shan orchard co-founder & Managing director

The orchard sources the majority of its avocados directly from smallholder farmers in Southern Shan State, bypassing brokers and guaranteeing the farmers higher income. Sustainable avocado agriculture is the core of Shan Orchard’s mission. The avocado waste pulp, skins, and stones become green waste and are turned into compost for fertilizer. The water extracted from the oil is collected due to its high nitrogen content and is applied to avocado trees on Shan Orchard’s campus.

Equipping the Avocado Industry to Meet Growing Demand

Over the last 10 years, avocado oil demand has grown rapidly due to its health benefits, and the Myanmar avocado industry is poised to take advantage of the trend. Avocado production in Myanmar is dominated by smallholder farmers, with approximately 15,000 growing acres producing over 50,000 metric tonnes annually. Shan Orchard hopes to draw international interest in Myanmar as a supply base for the global avocado market, while also supplying fresh avocados for domestic supermarket chains, wholesalers, and fruit retail stores.

While Myanmar has suitable conditions to grow export-quality fruit and produce cold-pressed oil, the local avocado industry still faces many challenges including the lack of research, limited technical expertise, poor harvesting practices, and low investment in post-harvest capabilities. The last challenge particularly impacts smallholder farmers, as they typically sell their fruit to traders or collection hubs without playing a role in downstream processing. As a result, up to 80 percent of their harvests are often damaged or unsold.

Shan is addressing this problem as well. In addition to establishing avocado oil production capability, AFDA also helped Shan Orchard become the first avocado producer in Myanmar to receive Global Good Agricultural Practices (GLOBALG.A.P.) certification, the gold standard for food safety globally. As part of its contract farming program, Shan Orchard provided free training to 68 farmers in 2021 to facilitate improvements in the local avocado supply chain.

The Activity also helped Shan establish the first-ever avocado laboratory in Myanmar, conducting research on proper harvest time as well as the oil content of local avocado varieties. “This signals to the world that Myanmar is ready to participate in this fast-growing avocado oil industry,” Winn said.

Learn more about the Feed the Future Burma Agriculture and Food Systems Development Activity (AFDA) here.