Planting fruit helps bring prosperity to Aksu in Xinjiang

2021-01-14 12:03:54

Rahman Abdullah harvests white apricots in Tohqi village of Kuqa, Aksu prefecture of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in June. [Photo by Mao Weihua/China Daily] Saypidin Yasin said planting and selling walnuts has changed his life in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. He used to take odd jobs to support his family of four in Yalhuz Terak village, Aksu prefecture. Despite working hard, his annual income was about 10,000 yuan ($1,544)-hardly enough to cover expenses. He learned that many of his neighbors had made big money by planting walnuts, and he decided to give it a try. In 2015, he planted 0.3 hectares of walnuts, which yielded 900 kilograms of the crop in 2019. He said the business increased his family's income by 15,000 yuan and lifted them out of poverty. Walnuts, apples and red dates are Aksu's most famous agricultural products. For decades, the fruit and nuts have been sold worldwide and have brought wealth to the local people. A major fruit production center in China, Aksu features fertile soil, long days of sunlight and large temperature differences between day and night, which helps fruit accumulate sugar and nutritious elements and gives it a sweeter, more pleasant taste. The fruit forest area in Aksu grew to around 300,000 hectares last year, with a production of 2.45 million metric tons and an output value of over 15 billion yuan. "We regard the fruit industry as a pillar industry that enriches the prefecture and people," said Dou Wangui, Party secretary of Aksu, adding that it has also played a key role in driving rural revitalization and improving people's livelihood. "The advantage of our unique agricultural products and their good brand reputation lays a solid basis to increase the incomes of farmers." Baicheng county in Aksu gives priority to candidates from poor families when recruiting workers for orchards or fruit companies regardless of their age, as long as they're healthy, willing and able to work, said Yang Xiaoyan, an official of Baicheng's agriculture and rural affairs bureau. "For example, 90 percent of the workers at our potato starch factory are from poor families," Yang said. "Our fruit business is expanding, and the white apricots and grapes are well enjoyed by customers. With further development of the business, more jobs will be created." In the past, farmers mainly planted fruit based on their own knowledge, so production and quality were not stable. Authorities said the local government encourages agricultural technology training and promotes standardized production among farmers to guarantee product quality and sales. Abduwali Abdurahman, who has planted walnuts for seven years at Yuka Kelangan village in Aksu, said that from time to time the local government sends technicians to organize training classes on farmlands. After learning professional skills, production in his farmland has largely increased, and his incomes from selling walnuts grew from 17,000 yuan in 2019 to about 30,000 yuan last year, he said. "Thanks to the business, we have bought a car and renovated our house," he said. As a remote northwestern prefecture far from inland cities, it takes a long time for Aksu farmers to transport fruit, which affects the taste. The local government has worked to expand logistics and selling channels for farmers to explore larger markets. In October, Xianfeng Fruit, a company based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, signed a 3-year, 1-billion-yuan agreement with the Aksu government to purchase its agricultural products. Fruit from Aksu will be sold in over 1,000 of the company's stores nationwide, it said. Shi Wenjun, general manager of local fruit logistics and sales company Aksu Sweetheart Agricultural Science and Technology Development, said the company helps farmers sell their products on major e-commerce platforms. "We have warehouses in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, to better store and deliver goods, decreasing logistics costs and cutting delivery time. The purpose is to enable customers to eat fresh fruit from Aksu as soon as possible," Shi said.