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Experienced morel grower help farmers out of poverty in rural Chongqing by Wang Jinli,July 07, 2020 Adjust font size:

Mid-spring is mushroom harvesting season in Lianhua village, Sanyi township of Pengshui county, Chongqing municipality. Farmers have recently been busy picking, sorting, and packing the morels that grow in 19 greenhouses in the village.

Sanyi is one of the 18 deeply impoverished townships in Chongqing. The high mountains and steep slopes that are present in the territory make transportation and poverty reduction endeavors difficult.

 Wang Zuxun is the leader of the poverty alleviation team in Sanyi. He has been conducting market research in order to develop various industries in the township and help its citizens escape from poverty.

Wang eventually met a morel grower named Hou Chunjun in Pengshui county who had a lot of experience with farming the mushroom and industrial innovation and management. The official thought that he should recruit the agriculturalist and businessman to help develop the morel industry in Sanyi in order to promote poverty reduction.

Hou was moved by the sincerity of Sanyi’s officials and the preferential policies that the government has put in place. He traveled to Lianhua in 2018, which is located in a remote part of the township deep in the Wuling mountains, and began establishing a  standardized morel cultivation base with support funds that the township government helped him apply for.

Hou has worked in the morel industry for many years and is very familiar with all of its different aspects. He found that there is no advantage to merely growing the mushroom in Sanyi as a result of its remote location and inconvenient transportation situation. Hou, therefore, decided to develop the entire industry chain, believing that the added value provided by processing the mushroom would make the undertaking more promising.

Lianhua’s morel industry has been taking shape over the past two years at an elevation of over 800 meters. Breeding rooms, greenhouses, and processing factories have been built, and products such as morel noodles and canned mushroom soup have been successfully developed.

In October 2019, Hou was appointed Lianhua’s industry leader by the Sanyi government.

“It is a great honor and responsibility for me,” he mentioned. “I have a chance to help develop the morel industry in Lianhua and provide more ways for people to increase their incomes.”

Hou and various officials from Lianhua and Sanyi decided to use some of the poverty alleviation funds that they have access to to purchase shares of the existing morel collective and give them to local residents as well as the village collective. He explained: “We began issuing dividends in 2019. More than 30,000 yuan (US$4,227) has been paid to individual shareholders and the collective’s account so far.” 

Morels need to grow for five months before they are ready to be picked. More than 30 of Lianhua’s impoverished citizens breed, grow, pick, and dry the mushrooms and engage in other processes along with other employees from the village. A total of 150,000 yuan (US$21,135) of wages were paid in 2019.

Jian Chunrong, an impoverished 63-year-old resident of Lianhua, earns more than 2,000 yuan (US$282) a month by participating in the industry. “My husband and I both work at the morel farm, which allows us to earn a living near our home.”

Hou has also signed a collaborative project with a university in Yunnan province this year. “Our company invited a doctoral student from Yunnan to help enhance our morel cultivation this year. He showed growers how to improve their soil with biological agents and also gave them free spores,” he said, adding that local farmers can now cultivate morels independently while his company is responsible for selling their produce for a guaranteed price. This is expected to provide the local farmers with a new source of income.

Speaking about the development plan of this poverty alleviation industry for this year, Hou said: “Newly purchased morel processing equipment cannot be delivered here right now as a result of logistics issues caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has delayed our production schedule, but the local government has taken measures to help us overcome this difficulty.”

The Pengshui county’s commerce authority has established an e-commerce platform known as Pengshui Ganchang that makes it easier for businesses in the area to sell their products and is free for them to use. “Sometimes more than 700 packs of morel noodles and other items are sold through the system on a single day,” Hou said.

Qian Jianchao, Party chief of Pengshui county, concluded: “Insightful industry leaders have been a very important part of poverty reduction in rural areas and have shown a lot of initiative. In recent years, Pengshui’s township governments have hired Hou Chunjun and five other industry leaders with the support of the county government in order to help develop businesses in their villages.” He noted that more and more industry leaders are choosing to stay in villages and that they have become an important part of poverty alleviation efforts and rural revitalization.



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