Close ties with factories benefit farmers

By ZHAO RUIXUE in Pingyi, Shandong province| (China Daily)| Updated : 2023-03-01

Print Print

"This variety of yellow peach has a good look and tastes juicy," said Lian Shidong, a farmer in the village of Xinzhuang, as he trimmed the branches of a peach tree. "This variety produces more fruit than other varieties do."

Lian has been cultivating fruit trees for three decades. He is now an expert in cultivating new varieties of fruit and tending trees to maximize the harvest.

Farmers in this area of Difang town, Pingyi county in Shandong province, have found an agreeable environment and fertile soil to grow fruit, making possible a robust canned fruit industry. The town's 68 canneries produce one-third of the canned fruit sold in China.

"This mountainous area has no air pollution, and there is abundant sunlight here," Lian said.

"The big temperature gap between day and night ensures a high sugar content in the fruit," he said.

The soil in the town is good for growing fruit because of its high sand content, Lian said.

"Almost every household in our town plants fruit trees. Farmers can now earn 10,000 yuan ($1,440) from each mu (0.067 hectares) by growing fruit," he said.

The town now has over 4,466 hectares of land for fruit cultivation, mainly peaches, pears, hawthorns and grapes, town officials said.

"We are not worried about the markets because most of us have signed agreements with canned fruit producers, who will buy our fruit at a price no lower than the market level," Lian said.

"But a strict requirement for us is that our fruit has to be safe, which means having no pesticide residues that are harmful," he said.

To assist farmers, Lian has set up a WeChat group that now has more than 300 members.

"These people are the elites of fruit cultivation. I show them how to tend the trees and they will teach other people," he said. "If we tend the trees properly, there is no need to use any of the pesticides that are not allowed."

Attracted by the improved rural environment and the promising canned fruit industry, many young people have returned to the town to develop careers, with some selling both fresh and canned fruit via e-commerce and some offering rural tourism including visits to orchards where people can pick their own fruit and enjoy beautiful mountain scenery.

Wu Zheng is one of the young people who returned to his hometown to run the canned fruit business for Qiwei Canned Foodstuff Co Ltd after quitting his job at a bank in Shanghai in 2013.

The 34-year-old has expanded the markets for the company by selling online.

Wu, now general manager of Qiwei, has been training local farmers to use e-commerce to sell their produce and canned products.

"By expanding their marketing options, farmers in our town and nearby towns have earned more income. Some earn 20,000 to 30,000 yuan more every year," Wu said.


Peach growers in Difang town, Pingyi county, Shandong province, sell their produce to canned food producers. CHINA DAILY