Avocados in SW China's Yunnan find big market

(People's Daily Online) 10:50, November 21, 2023

Avocados, which used to be an expensive exotic fruit in China, have become a local specialty of Menglian Dai, Lahu, and Wa Autonomous County in Pu'er city, southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Large-scale production bases of avocados in the county account for nearly 80 percent of China's total fresh avocado output.

With 108,100 mu (7,206.67 hectares) of land under cultivation and 20,400 mu in production for avocados, the county has yielded 17,300 tonnes of fresh avocados and seen an output value of over 600 million yuan ($82.5 million) this year.

Photo shows avocados on the tree in an orchard in Menglian, Yunnan Province. (Photo/convergence media center of Menglian county)

As an exotic fruit with its origins in Mexico, the avocado was introduced in Menglian by Qi Jiazhu, an entrepreneur from Yuxi city, Yunnan Province.

"With continuous improvements in people's income and quality of life, this fruit has great market potential," he said.

Menglian was selected by Qi for avocado planting, as the county has an average annual temperature of about 20 degrees Celsius and abundant sunshine and rain.

After a decade of trials since 2007, the first 200 tonnes of locally-grown avocados sold out in less than three months in 2017, generating over 10 million yuan. The success greatly encouraged local avocado growers. The following year, Menglian designated avocados as its featured industry.

Over the past 16 years, the county's avocado industry has developed rapidly, thanks to large-scale production, the introduction of high-quality varieties, and cooperation with expert teams, among other practices.

The county's planting area of avocados has expanded continuously. It has built a breeding base with an annual capacity of 1 million quality avocado seedlings, and a clonal seedling base for aseptic and asexual reproduction that can produce 200,000 avocado seedlings a year. Large avocado plantations have also taken shape in the locality.

As the exotic fruit gains in popularity, Menglian's early start has allowed growers to command premium prices.

"In big cities, an avocado gift box can be sold for up to 135 yuan, which makes us believe in the broad prospects of the industry," said Zhao Yuan, head of the bureau of agriculture, rural affairs, and science and technology of Menglian Dai, Lahu, and Wa Autonomous County, as well as the director of the county's command office of avocado planting industry.

In 2019, avocados in Menglian attracted the attention of e-commerce platform Hema Fresh, Alibaba's fresh-food chain. Cooperation with the platform opened a supply chain of domestic ready-to-eat avocados.

In 2021, Menglian avocados entered Hema Fresh stores in 18 cities. In November 2022, Hema Fresh partnered with Mangxin village, Mangxin township of Menglian, for a stable supply of avocados. Since then, the platform has sourced 100 million yuan worth of avocados from the village on an annual basis.

Meanwhile, the county has built a fruit sorting warehouse and e-commerce platform, while cooperating with more companies and platforms to further broaden distribution channels and expand market.

Improving transportation services and advanced production facilities have greatly fueled the development of the county's avocado industry.

With cold-chain logistics services, fresh avocados can reach dining tables across the country in as fast as 72 hours, which makes it possible for the fruit to grow longer in trees than before.

Avocados from Menglian county used to hit the market as early as September. Now, the fruit is harvested a month later than before, thus having a higher dry matter content and better taste.

Modern facilities have also boosted the industry. With the help of facilities like unmanned aerial vehicles and smart drip irrigation systems, local farmers can tend to avocado trees using only a mobile phone.

By transferring their land-use rights and working for relevant avocado production bases, local households have effectively increased their income.

"The higher the output value of the industry is, the more dividends we can get. We usually get about 6,000 yuan a year from each mu of land," said a local villager who transferred the use rights of his lands to a company operating an avocado production base in Menglian county and tends avocado trees for a base.

Sources said over 50,000 mu in local lands have been used for avocado production, which has increased the annual collective income of villages involved to 200,000 yuan to 400,000 yuan.

Local avocado production cooperatives have given priority to previously impoverished people in the employment of workers for avocado production bases, providing over 3,000 jobs to locals.

Avocados from Menglian have been certified as geographical indication products and included in China's list of famous, high-quality, special, and new agricultural products. The release of local standards for the industry and the construction of deep-processing facilities are expected to further speed up the growth of the burgeoning industry.

"In October this year, Menglian held its first avocado festival, attracting more than 10,000 tourists and buyers," said Zhao, who said that orders for more than 3,000 tonnes of avocados were placed on the festival’s opening day.

The county will continue to promote the deeper integration of the avocado industry into various areas of tourism, according to Zhao.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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