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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  July 19, 2017 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT

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♪ ♪ myanmar. after decades of military rule, a new government headed by aung san suu kyi came to power in 2016. urban areas have been developing rapidly. the economic growth rate has approached 8% for several years. as a deeply buddhist country,
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alcohol consumption in myanmar has traditionally been very low. however, in recent years some have begun to enjoy it. this supermarket has a wine bar. the alcohol beverage has been gaining popularity among the younger generation. wine consumption is currently about 2 million bottles a year and is rising annually. the shelves stock wines from france, italy, spain and more. there's also a section of wines from myanmar. about a third of the wine consumed in myanmar is made domestically. there are two major producers and a number of smaller wineries. the highlands of northern
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eastern myanmar. 24,000 grape vines are grown in these expansive fields. this is where myanmar's wine industry began. the first person to establish a winery and start making local wine was bert morsbach from germany. bert's efforts were supported by the local residents. they helped him reclaim land for the vines, cultivate grapes, and produce the wine itself. >> i was trying to convince them to believe in the future of the company and of wine in myanmar. we went through a lot of hardship, a lot of problems. >> this man is currently in charge of the vineyards. he's worked with bert for nearly 20 years.
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>> translator: i strongly believe that making good wine will help enrich myanmar's economy. that's why i work so hard. >> wine sales have been rising every year, providing vineyard and winery workers with a stable income. >> translator: undertaking this project and growing these grapes has given me hope. >> today, we shine a light on the people of myanmar who dream of wine. 600 kilometers north of myanmar's biggest city, this is a town that sits 1200 meters above sea level in the shan state. the region has long been a resort for the wealthy and
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foreigners to escape the heat. the current population is about 50,000. most locals are small farmers with no land of their own. myanmar's gdp is about 1300 u.s. dollars, one of the lowest in asia. most locals in this region live on even less. the town is home to one of myanmar's major wine producers. it was the first in the country to produce wine. the winery's vines are grown on its own estate, which stretches over 20 acres, the size of ten soccer fields. the grapes are harvested each march and made into wine, which is matured in tanks.
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the wine is bottled after being matured for a year. the winery currently produces 400,000 bottles annually. seven people work in the bottling plant. all of them come from the town and other local villages. the winery also operates an in-house restaurant. 40 people work in the front of house and kitchen. most of them are also young locals. when it first opened, most of the customers were foreigners. today nearly 90% are from myanmar. this family has come from yangon. over at the vineyards, around 40 farm hands are busy preparing
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for the monsoon season. the rains last six months, from may to october. they begin by cutting off any excess leaves or branches. doing this promotes air circulation and prevents mold, a major concern during the monsoon season. next, they pick off the small green grapes. in myanmar's warm climate, the vines produce fruit two times a year. however, good grapes do not grow during the rains. picking these now allows the stems to retain nutrients, leading to a particularly good harvest post-monsoon. at 43 years old, this man looks after the vineyard, providing guidance and direction for the farm hands.
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in order to make good wine, this is the most important part of the year. these tasks will decide the flavor of our harvest a year from now. >> his hometown is myanmar's second biggest city. after graduating vocational school, he started working at a local hotel. when he first someone was starting to make wine domestically, he left his job to join the effort. >> translator: i had no
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experience making wine until i came here. so i started from scratch. but i'm incredibly proud to be involved in myanmar's first wine-making enterprise. >> the winery's owner is bert morsbach from germany. bert first visited the region in 1999 in search of a location suitable for wine making. >> this place, when i found it, it was not looking like this at the time. it was looking like up there, with the mountain. >> reporter: for bert, the wilderness evoked his hometown outside of dusseldorf. bert chiefly worked at a german company manufacturing airplane parts until becoming an entrepreneur in his 30s.
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in thailand, he started a can have manufacturing surf boards and began cultivating crops. in 1991, he set up a firm in myanmar to export rice and moved his base of operations to yangon. it was a decision he made just myanmar's military regime.ing through his rice exporting business, he game familiar with the richness of the region's soil. he subsequently resolved to produce wine in myanmar. >> my wine business was a dream of mine for a long time. i decided even if the political situation was very difficult, i said i would take the risk. if the political side is going to develop, then it's going to explode. >> bert began looking for places suited to growing grapes. he visited many areas before
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finally coming across the town. he negotiated with the government to use the land and hired locals to reclaim the soil and grow grapes. he quickly found 20 interested applicants. among them was min zho, who is now in charge of the vineyard. but producing his first wine proved to be an uphill battle. >> translator: this land was all untilled. so it took a long time to cultivate it. we ran into insect problems and animal problems. it was quite an undertaking. >> the biggest problem was the six-month-long monsoon season. the region gets 1,500 millimeters of rain a year, double the amount considered ideal for wine grapes.
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min zho and the others planted the maiden grape vines. but the humidity from the rains posed a greater challenge than they expected. the grapes were besieged by mo. bert used his connections to procure 13,000 young grape vines of 30 varieties. they conducted repeated cultivation tests. they narrowed down the grapes best suited to the environment to just six varieties. >> translator: during monsoon season, the mold took root and spread rapidly. the majority of the grapes were a lost cause. we were desperate to find grape varieties that were resistant to mold and humidity. >> in march 2002, the team
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finally got a good harvest. it had been four years since they had begun their endeavor. >> i saw the willingness of these people to learn and learn and learn. the motivation was learning. something new which they didn't know before. >> the next step was to turn the grapes into wine. but neither bert nor min zho had wine making experience. they enjoyed experts from germany for short term stays and researched books and the internet. in november 2004, myanmar's first domestic wine was released by bert and his team. it was a red wine. >> translator: when we finally had a wine that could be sold to consumers, we were all overjoyed.
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we had all worked together, not only to become the first winery in myanmar, but to produce good wine plain and simple. so our efforts were rewarded. >> the following year, the winery began selling its wine in yangon and manderlay. and they opened their restaurant. hoping to increase production, bert invited a wine maker from germany. under hans' super vision, the wine making facilities were mechanized and upgraded, greatly increasing production capacity. today the winery produces 400,000 bottles a year. in addition to red, they now make white, rose, and sparkling wine varieties.
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currently, about 80% of the vineyard workers are female. caring for grapes requires a delicate touch and women are especially suited to the work. most of them previously worked as day laborers on other people's farms or on construction sites. the amount of work varied by season, as did earnings. at the winery, there is work almost all year round. and workers can earn a stable income. the vineyard workers all look forward to the end of work every friday. it's payday. the salary is $2.50 a day. on busy weeks, the workers can make more than $15. once a year, each is also given a bonus of nearly $150.
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>> the winery also provides free housing for workers who cannot afford a house. currently, three families live in small huts on the vineyard grounds. this woman h-- this man worked here for eight years. he was obligated to move out of his home when he got married, but he had no money or place to go. his wife gave birth to their second child just two months ago. she also works on the vineyard.
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but is currently on maternity leave with pay. >> translator: i receive 70% of my normal wage. all the women who work can get three months' paid maternity leave. >> pyo and his wife dream of sending their two children to college. new front of house staff are being trained at the winery's restaurant. everyone begins with the basics, starting with how to set the tables.
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prior to being hired, they had practically no knowledge of wine. they had never even tasted it. they learn from scratch how to serve it, as well as the different characteristics of the winery's products. during the off season, hospitality experts from hotels in yangon and manderlay provide instruction on skills.
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sharehold this woman is 18 years old. she began working here after graduating from a local high school. she plans to enroll in a distance learning college in november and is saving nearly all her pay. five months in, she has gotten used to her duties as a waitress. on this day, she's attending to a couple from overseas who have ordered the wine tasting option. she will present them four different wines. this tourist couple is from
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belgium. this is their first time trying any of the vineyard's wines. she hopes to use her experience here to strike out on her own after graduating college. >> translator: i can meet all kinds of different people through my job here. that helps me learn. i want to run my own place one day. >> on this morning, workers from the winery are loading up two trucks with various items.
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over 40 or so items, including storage drawers, brooms, and soap, are loaded onto the trucks. min zho and the other workers jump on as well. they arrive at their destination, a local temple, ten minutes later. they're met by a buddhist priest
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who heads the temple. the temple runs a children's home that currently houses 370 children. [ chanting ] most of the children are here because their families are in poverty. many of the locals in this region continue to earn very little income and are thus unable to look after their children. the children live together in a dormitory. some go months without seeing their parents. min zho hopes that by expanding the winery and increasing
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employment, they can reduce the number of children born into poverty. ♪ >> translator: i would be very delighted if these kids grew up one day to work at our winery. >> in order to increase wine production, the winery is always looking to sign contracts with local farmers to grow grapes. the winery occasionally holds informational meetings which have been attended by many local farmers. however, when they learn about the work involved in growing wine grapes, many shrink from the task. the winery currently has contracts with 18 farmers. today, bert and min zho are
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visiting a family who signed a contract a year ago. this man is 57 years old. he supports a wife, one child, and two grandchildren. he spent many years as a day laborer on construction sites. but the physical labor took its toll as he aged. eventually he could no longer work. so his wife's family rented vacant farmland to him and he signed up to grow grapes for the winery. min zho carefully checks his grape violence and offers advice.
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the winery provides the initial grape vines at no cost. they also send farm workers during busy times of year to help prepare for the rainy season and during the harvest. their wages are paid by the winery. >> translator: they provide a lot of support. they're a big help. for me, growing grapes provides a big hope.
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i want to harvest them and provide for my family. i'll do everything i can. >> his grapes will be ready for their first harvest next year. bert and his team are currently moving forward with plans to build a second winery. they expect the market for wine to expand as myanmar's urban areas develop. >> it's on the way to now the existing small farmer. >> yes. >> bert says that it will be important to work together with farmers in the region. >> i had suggested that we will bring to the farmers, we have
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4,000 farmers in this region, we would like to build kind of an academy for this culture, to teach them how to apply more modern technology so that they can double their income. >> bert says that many farmers here already grow table grapes. and so he is hopeful that they will find potential contract farmers. the winery has also begun to grow a new grape variety. this german variety has a light flavor. they'll be blended with the winery's red wine to create a new blend. min zho took a chance at joining myanmar's first attempt at producing domestic wine. he intends to keep tackling new
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challenges head-on. >> translator: as a myanmar native, i really want to continue to be a pioneer of myanmar wine. raising our level of technical expertise will surely lead to a brighter future for our country. >> the efforts of a germany entrepreneur and these local farmers have planted the seeds of hope throughout the region. and they are now beginning to bear fruit. ♪
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very warm welcome to nhk "newsline." it is 9 can:00 a.m. in tokyo. i'm catherine kobayashi. about 1500 people have attended a rally in hong kong to commemorate a nobel peace prize laureat. he died of liver cancer. people gathered at a park on wednesday. participants laid flowers in front of his portrait. his ashes were scattered in the sea. some critics say it was an attempt by the chinese government to erase memories of him. >> i guess now the sea will become a symbol of him.

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