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Wushan county’s plum industry helps farmers escape from poverty by Sun Fang,March 02, 2020 Adjust font size:

“Pest control and prevention is an important part of improving fruit quality, especially before trees bloom in March,” explained Fang Bo, deputy director of the Chongqing Academy of Agricultural Sciences Fruit Research Institute.

Fang and his colleagues usually go to Wushan county’s plum orchards to train farmers and provide on-site guidance during this part of the year. This time they are offering support via WeChat because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Wushan is located in the largest karst region in northeast Chongqing. The mountainous county has been fairly barren in the past as a result of erosion and the thin soil in the area.

Quchi is a town that is located in western Wushan and has suffered from serious erosion. Its farmers tended to grow drought-resistant crops in recent years, such as corn and sweet potatoes, before they began cultivating new varieties of plums.

“People have been farming plums in Wushan for over 1,000 years,” Fang explained. “The endeavor goes all the way back to the Tang and Song dynasties.” Quchi’s citizens have switched back to growing fruit trees, which has helped them get out of poverty.

Wushan’s plums are crispier, sweeter, and more delicate than regular plums. The county government has cooperated with universities and research institutes in order to optimize its plum industry and promote poverty reduction and prosperity. Researchers began performing DNA-based experiments in 2007 to select and improve the most-advantageous varieties.

In 2014, the Wushan government and the Chongqing Academy of Agricultural Sciences selected and cultivated the Wanqing plum, which is a variety of crisp Wushan plum. It ripens in August, which is a month later than the varieties that had been grown in the area before. The increased supply period decreases pressure on farmers and makes the industry more sustainable.

A 65-year-old farmer who lives in the village of Quanfa in Quchi named Wang Enhai stated: “Plum trees are helping us get out of poverty. Ninety percent of Wushan’s villagers have gotten new housing in recent years. Many of them bought homes in the central county area.”

“Our plums used to sell for two to four yuan (US$0.30 to US$0.60) per kg in the past,” Wang explained. “I can now sell them for about thirty yuan (US$4.3) per kg or even up to forty yuan (US$5.7).”

The Quanfa resident estimated that he earned about 80,000 yuan (US$11,429) in 2018 and that he brought in 170,000 yuan (US$24,286) last year after doubling his output. Wang and his wife used to make a little over 10,000 yuan (US$1,429) a year, despite working very hard.

“The crispy plums that agricultural experts have introduced to our area have helped us get out of poverty and become more prosperous,” Wang said.

Chongqing’s villages, towns, and counties became more interested in crispy plums in 2007. Local governments have subsidized farmers who plant the trees and arranged for experts to help with the undertaking. Villagers have the opportunity to learn from other farmers and even stay with major growers for a while.

Wushan’s renowned crispy plums have attracted the interest of many fruit companies. The varieties that are currently grown are large and green, and benefit from science and modern agricultural techniques. The farmers in the county used to have to take their plums to Hubei province and other areas to bring them to market. Fruit companies now come to Wushan to buy their products. Prices also tend to increase every year.

Quchi’s farmers have reaped the benefits that crispy plums provide.  These kinds of varieties were being grown on more than 1,333 ha of land in the town at the end of 2019, 800 ha of which are devoted to high-yield varieties. About 15,000 tons of the fruit is currently grown in Quchi every year, which results in 240 million yuan (US$34.3 million) of total output value.

Eight hundred ha’s worth of oranges are also farmed in the town, 667 of which are used to grow high-yield varieties. Total yields also come to about 15,000 tons per year, which results in 90 million yuan (US$13 million) of output value.

Quchi is a good example of a place where poverty has been reduced via industry. More than 14,000 households in Wushan are no longer impoverished as a result of participating in fruit farming.

“We provide scientific support to featured industries in our county,” explained Huang Chengquan, director of Wushan’s Science and Technology Bureau. He mentioned that a team of agricultural experts has been established that features 39 specialists from Chongqing and 117 from Wushan and that it is divided into divisions that provide services related to fruit, dried fruit, animal husbandry, and Chinese herbs. Huang stated that the team currently operates in 120 impoverished villages and a town that is in deep poverty.

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