Foreign specialty crops thrive amid China's economic vitality

By Li Yin, Ji Zhepeng, Yang Jing (Xinhua) 08:26, November 21, 2023

KUNMING, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The border city of Pu'er, southwest China's Yunnan Province, is adorned with an abundance of red coffee fruits in November, dangling generously from the branches before being harvested and prepared for use in cafes across the country.

In recent years, coffee has found a thriving home in Yunnan, along with avocados and macadamia nuts, originating from various parts of the world.

A farmer picks avocados at a farm in Nanya Village of Menglian County in Pu'er, southwest China's Yunnan Province, on Sept. 20, 2023. (Xinhua/Hu Chao)

These products have evolved into pillar industries in the border areas of China and earned widespread acclaim in global markets. Such progress underscores China's expanding engagement with the world and reflects its robust economic vitality.


By the end of 2022, with a coffee planting area encompassing 679,000 mu (about 45,267 hectares) and an annual output exceeding 55,700 tonnes, Pu'er had become a leading city within China in terms of both coffee production and output value.

At the Xiaowazi coffee manor in Pu'er, manager Liao Xiugui carefully inspects the quality of this year's beans. A pioneer among local growers, he embarked on his coffee journey in the late 1980s. He has dedicated himself to cultivating excellent coffee and roasting premium products for over three decades.

Manager Liao Xiugui (L) talks to tourists at Xiaowazi coffee manor in Pu'er, southwest China's Yunnan Province, on Feb. 22, 2022. (Xinhua/Chen Xinbo)

"At first, I just wanted to diversify the planting structure and boost local incomes," said 82-year-old Liao. Starting in 2019, he initiated the integration of coffee and tourism, establishing tour routes and immersive coffee-brewing experience sites within his coffee base, which covers 300 mu.

In recent years, the informative content released by the manor, highlighting over 40 varieties of coffee trees, has gained popularity on social media platforms. Around 2,000 coffee enthusiasts from across the globe would flock to the destination each month on average.

For 40 yuan (about 5.5 U.S. dollars), visitors can sample nine distinct types of coffee, explore coffee plantations and processing facilities, and acquire insights into coffee technology.

Xiaowazi is a microcosm of the robust development of coffee in Yunnan. Data from the provincial department of agriculture and rural affairs shows that in 2022, the province's coffee cultivation area topped 1.27 million mu, yielding a total output of 113,600 tonnes. The comprehensive output value amounted to 41.8 billion yuan.

Tourists taste coffee at Xiaowazi coffee manor in Pu'er, southwest China's Yunnan Province, on Feb. 22, 2022. (Xinhua/Chen Xinbo)


Avocados have also gained popularity among China's urban residents as they pursue a healthier lifestyle. Referred to as "forest butter," avocados were almost entirely imported into China in the past. However, Menglian County in Pu'er has emerged as the largest avocado-planting county in China.

This year's fresh avocado output in Menglian is expected to surpass 10,000 tonnes, with an estimated output value exceeding 300 million yuan.

For the ethnic Lahu people in Menglian County, the concept of "avocado" is absent from their local language. The idea that something nonexistent in their linguistic repertoire could evolve into an industry that boosts their income is something they could not have anticipated.

In recent years, through technical support and capital awards, Menglian County has elevated the avocado industry into a leading sector that enriches people's incomes.

Farmers sort out avocados at a farm in Nanya Village of Menglian County in Pu'er, southwest China's Yunnan Province, on Sept. 20, 2023. (Xinhua/Hu Chao)

Naduo, 53, from Nanya Village in Menglian, owns more than 30 mu of land. Previously, her family cultivated sugar cane and corn, and had quite a limited income. In 2018, village officials encouraged them to invest their land in an avocado cooperative.

After thorough research on planting techniques and fruit production, Naduo decided to invest 24 mu of land in the cooperative. She and her husband also took on the role of avocado conservators for the cooperative.

"Taking care of an avocado tree can earn 11 yuan a year," she said, adding that managing the avocado trees can generate an annual income of 22,000 yuan. By raising chickens under the trees, her family can earn an additional income each year.


While coffee and avocados have established themselves in the market, macadamia nuts, rich in various nutrients, are also gaining traction on China's e-commerce platforms and in supermarkets.

Farmer Bi Jiafu trims a macadamia nut tree at his plantation in Xingtang Village of Yongde County, Lincang City, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Oct. 23, 2019. (Xinhua)

Native to Australia, macadamia nuts found their way to Yunnan in the 1980s when the province began experimenting with cultivating this exotic nut. During that period, domestic consumers in China had not yet been introduced to such unconventional nuts.

The initial aim of the local government in Yunnan was to alleviate poverty and improve the economic status of ethnic minorities in the mountainous areas, while also generating foreign exchange through exports.

Lincang is a city in Yunnan with a distinctive geographical environment, intersected by the Tropic of Cancer. The area boasts fertile soil, ample sunshine and abundant rainfall, creating unique natural conditions that offer an ideal environment for the cultivation of macadamia nuts.

As of October, the macadamia nut planting area in Lincang had reached 2.63 million mu, yielding an output of 60,000 tonnes. The planting area accounts for over half of the global total.

This undated file photo shows a staff member picking nuts at a nut farm in Zhenkang County of Lincang City, southwest China's Yunnan Province. (Photo by Li Ying/Xinhua)

In Lincang, the range of macadamia nut products has evolved beyond the traditional use of dried nuts as food. The industry now utilizes the entire fruit to develop products of high added value, such as health foods, cosmetics and medicines.

Coffee, avocados and macadamia nuts, having traversed the oceans, are thriving in Yunnan and propelling ethnic minority areas toward shared prosperity, said Chen Xiaowei, deputy director of the institute of rural development at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences. "This success shows the accomplishments of international agricultural exchanges and cooperation."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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