This market stall in Theingyi Market in downtown Yangon sells scraps of cloth that the owner and his son collect from four separate clothing factories across the city’s industrial zones. The going rate for 100 pounds of scrap cloth is about $50, and the stall owner sells a pound for about 70 cents, leaving roughly a $20 margin. White cloth is packed tightly into this five foot by five foot stall, and the owner must move a good deal of it in order to cover the $60 monthly rent and still make enough to get by and restock his store. He says customers consist mostly of “people who get their hands dirty”, such as woodworkers, generator owners/technicians, car mechanics, cleaners/janitors, and the employees of the many machine repair/refurbishing stalls throughout downtown Yangon.
He says his business is seasonal, with demand slumping in the rainy season and picking up in the dry season. This is a challenge due to the mismatch with the supply; hydropower provides most of Yangon’s electricity, meaning that power is cheap and plentiful in the rainy season and many factories and producers prefer to focus their production in such times of “electrical plenty”. Dry season brings power shortages, meaning factories must generate their own at significant costs with their own diesel generators (diesel costs can approach $5 a gallon during times of peak demand). Running generators, though, means getting ones’ hands dirty, and more demand for scrap cloth.