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Mugwort, mushrooms offer cure for poor in Hubei

By ZHOU LIHUA and LUO WANGSHU in Wuhan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-09-25 10:04
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A county in Hubei province has turned to traditional Chinese medicine to cure poverty.

Qichun county-the hometown of Li Shizhen, one of the most famous herbalists in ancient China-is known especially for mugwort, an important herb in TCM.

In 2015, the county government set a goal to develop the mugwort industry, including planting, processing and mugwort spas.

In the past, local farmers sold mugwort to dealers or agents, but being at the bottom of the distribution chain did not provide good revenue.

"Sales were small, like a piece of cake. Without added value, it could not even be called a real business," said Zhu Wengang, Party secretary of Chidong town in the county.

So local governments in the county encouraged investments and cooperation with schools and research centers to develop products with added value.

Hubei Dingai Technology, a company that plants mugwort, processes mugwort products and runs health and wellness centers nationwide, was established in Chidong with support from the local government.

Luo Bailin, the company's CEO, is a native of Qichun. He returned to his hometown in 2014 after selling herbs nationwide for years and established Hubei Dingai the same year.

The company employs 224 people from the town.

Xia Jiaogu, a 55-year-old local villager, works at the company's processing workshop to press raw mugwort herb into shapes. She earns 5,000 yuan ($740) a month.

According to the county government, Qichun now plants 12,000 hectares of mugwort. About 100,000 people work in the industry, helping more than 30,000 people to escape poverty.

In 2019, the output value of the mugwort industry in the county reached more than 5 billion yuan, making a name for the Qichun mugwort brand nationwide.

Mugwort products from Qichun have become popular on e-commerce websites, and deliverymen and trucks that collect mugwort products are spotted everywhere in the county.

According to the county government, about 12,000 brick-and-mortar stores and 5,000 online shops are selling Qichun mugwort products nationwide. In 2019, online sales surpassed 3 billion yuan.

While Qichun is using the herb to lift local people out of poverty, Yunyang district of Hubei's Shiyan city, a major mushroom production area, has taken in 64,000 people who were relocated from areas with poor geographical conditions, such as mountainous areas with inadequate access to roads or tap water.

But accommodating so many people is not easy, so the local government decided to build a mushroom industry in the community.

Zhu Youfu, one of the villagers, benefited from the relocation project.

In December 2018, his family of three moved to the community and has started planting mushrooms.

"The government gave my family three greenhouses and provided cultures and guidance, all for free," he said.

Mushroom processing companies are also being lured to the community to make the growing, processing and sales chains beneficial for residents.

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