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Farmers reap sweet gains from lychee biz

By LI WENFANG in Maoming, Guangdong | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-11 09:04

Employees sort lychee at a processing plant in Maoming, Guangdong province. QIU QUANLIN/CHINA DAILY

He Jinming acquired 80 mu (5.33 hectares) of lychee orchard in his hometown last year and plans to rent 100 mu more this year.

He, who has been growing the round, delicate subtropical fruit in Baiqiao village in Maoming, Guangdong province since 1990, says new technology needed to upgrade the fruit species and the convenience of land transfers have emboldened him to make these big moves.

He made a net profit of 600,000 yuan ($82,961) from the 120 mu lychee orchard that he acquired before the new orchard acquisition last year. The orchard transfer cost him 1,000 yuan per mu, with a contract spanning 20 years.

"I have a full set of technologies for managing the trees," said He, adding that these are helping with high flowering and fruiting rates, and preparation for unfavorable weather.

The freezing station right inside the orchard helps keep the fruit fresh immediately after being picked. The weather is hot at harvest time and a delay in freezing causes a change in the color and taste of the fruit.

This year, he plans to build two more such stations, which can be shared with other neighboring lychee farmers.

He has been changing the tree varieties through grafting. Three years after grafting, a tree reaches its full fruiting capacity.

This year the lychee harvest is expected to be modest, following a major one last year. He expects unit prices to increase by about 20 percent over last year, even with the smaller quantity.

Maoming has the world's largest continuous lychee orchards, with fruit output of the city accounting for half of Guangdong's and a quarter of the country's total.

Lin Changzhen, another veteran lychee grower, heads an entrepreneurial park in the village, where shops, services by rural cooperatives, and freezing, logistics and warehousing facilities, are all available to serve small businesses and younger workers.

The park was upgraded from an e-commerce street and Lin's twin sons have been working there since they graduated from high school. More young people are returning to the village to follow suit.

Lin's sons sell both fresh and dried lychee and longan and processed food through e-commerce platforms and have made a profit of more than 100,000 yuan each in a year.

E-commerce contributes about 80 percent to the sale of fresh fruits from Lin's orchards and is set to take up a larger share.

Sales via livestreaming also fetch farmers better prices. "Even senior villagers can do it. They can hold a phone, pick lychee and promote it to audiences," Lin said.

Lin's cooperative, which has 52 core household members, generated 18 million yuan in revenue from selling fresh lychee last year. The profits will be partly spent on building more facilities and expanding the showroom.

New lychee varieties are still being developed and the technologies for keeping the fruit fresh along the logistics chain have been constantly upgraded, Lin said.

Looking forward, Lin believes branding and packaging of fruits are important to maintain competitive prices.

The Maoming government has been devoted to optimizing the lychee varieties, including early, middle and late harvest varieties, said Wang Xiaohui, the city's vice-mayor.

A field gene bank for lychee in the city has 3,500 plants of 700 varieties from 12 countries, she said.

A lychee industry big data center and smart orchards where devices are installed for monitoring soil moisture, farming and weather conditions, have been established, she said.

Among the marketing efforts, customizing of lychee has been promoted, in which organizations or individuals promise to buy harvests from some trees or to buy certain amounts. This helps farmers get a better price and receive payments even before the harvest.

The city reported a record 8.85 billion yuan in fresh lychee sales revenue last year, she said.


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