Green farming brings fresh lease of life for tea planters

Updated:Jun 29,2020 10:53 AM Xinhua

HEFEI, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Wang Yunpeng, 58, who has been engaged in tea plantation for more than 40 years, used to be apprehensive that his decades-long experience was being challenged by the standardized farming.

No application of fertilizers and pesticides did yield less output, but at the same time induced higher income for him, Wang said.

Wang hails from the city of Lu'an in east China's Anhui Province, famed for generating one of the country's best varieties of tea leaves.

Wang was invited to join a local cooperative in 2017 when he encountered severe financial difficulties due to his son's ailment. Owing to their worsening financial conditions, the Wangs' were officially listed as impoverished.

"Before joining the cooperative, I cultivated tea based on my experience," he said, adding that due to the varying qualities of tea leaves, he could hardly sell the produce at a higher price.

He leased his 0.2 hectares of tea garden to the cooperative, and in return, the cooperative provided him technical guidance on tea cultivation using a scientific approach.

The tea grown according to certain standards, including no application of fertilizers and pesticides, came to be known as Lu'an Guapian bearing the GI logo.

Lu'an Guapian was registered as a geographical indication (GI) product in 2008. The GI logo on the green tea indicates the specific geographical origin of Lu'an, vouching for its distinctive quality.

The provincial authorities issued certain criteria for the use of the GI logo stipulating that the logo will be allowed on the package only when the quality meets the standards.

"Tea factories used to buy fresh leaves from farmers by weight. Now they strictly consider the size and color of the leaves before purchasing," said Wang.

Though initially, the elderly tea farmer worried that he may earn less, as the standardization policies decreased the output of leaves, the results were gladsome.

The use of standardized tools and production practices, without the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, generate a 5 percent-10 percent higher rate for the fresh leaves compared with the market price, Wang said.

In addition, Wang just needs to cultivate tea, as the cooperative is in charge of tea processing and marketing, thus drastically reducing his workload.

Wang's annual income has now doubled to around 30,000 yuan (about 4,239 U.S. dollars), and as a result, the entire family has been able to shake off poverty.

The success story is not unique to Wang. According to local authorities, the increase in average annual per capita income of farmers in the Lu'an tea plantation area exceeds 1,500 yuan.

Anhui Province has 78 GI-registered products and the annual sales totaled nearly 41.5 billion yuan in 2019. Among them, 15 GI products have been exported to overseas markets totaling nearly 2.8 billion yuan in revenue.

In addition, 47 GI products related to poverty alleviation projects have helped more than 260,000 poor people, whose per capita annual income grew by 3,000 yuan.

China and the European Union (EU) completed an eight-year agreement on GI in 2019 that included 275 GIs from the two sides. Besides, another China-EU agreement on GI will be inked soon.

According to the new agreement, Chinese products will have the right to use the official certification mark of the EU, making it easier for companies to export relevant products to Europe.

"Someday the tea I plant may be in a foreigner's cup," Wang said.