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N China county farmers benefit from herb planting

Updated: 2013-10-31 21:24
By Zhang Yu in Hebei (
As a large herb grower in Shexian, a county of southwestern Hebei province, Shen Zhensheng sees himself as a discoverer of good opportunities.

Shen, who washed coal for more than 10 years, decided to plant herbs last year after he discovered that Chinese medicine has gained more recognition from foreign countries.

With a population of 400,000 and located in the east of the Taihang Mountains, Shexian has more than 1,500 kinds of wild herbs with 100 listed as national essential medicines, according to the county government.

Two decades ago, the county tried to bring in herbs seeds and planting techniques from Anguo, the largest distribution center for Chinese herbal medicine in the country.

Foreign investors and herb purchasers frequently come to Shexian for raw herbs, Shen said.

Farmers in Shexian used to plant what buyers needed but failed as the herbs they brought in could not grow well in Shexian.

A lesson learned

After careful investigation, the county found that 10 kinds of herbs including bupleurum, Schizonepeta, Salvia Miltiorrhiza are ideal for Shexian.

"This time we plant what we have," said Su Mishun, a local official in charge of the development of the county's herb industry.

Governments provided subsidies to farmers who plant the 10 herbs. This is the opportunity Shen took seized five years ago.

Until now, he has owned 18,000 mu (1,200 hectares) of land of herbs, and he only sells raw herbs along with other herb growers.

In the second half of 2014, Shen will build a factory to process raw herbs, which he said will be more profitable.

With an investment of 15 million yuan, Shen's factory will focus on the production of Forsythia extract.

After processing, herb products will be exported to foreign countries such as Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The demand for these herbs exceeds the supply, according to Shen.

But raw herbs from his own land can't meet the need for further processing. So Shen plans to set up Shexian's first cooperative and rent his folks’ land. “They can make more money growing herbs than grains, and I will pay them for their labor,” Shen said.

The local government has taken measures to encourage farmers to plant more herbs to meet market demand.

For example, different subsidies are provided to herb growers according to their herbs' variety, amount and quality. Free technological guidance is also available.

The local government has published a handbook on cultivating herbs that grows around China's northern mountains.

Planting herbs has become an important source of income for farmers in the county. They earn more than 2,000 yuan by planting herbs, while they can only make around 500 yuan for each mu (0.07 hectares) of wheat or corn.

The county government spends 10 million yuan per year on the development of herbs industry.

Shexian boasts 11 kinds of national key protected vegetation medicinal materials, accounting for almost 40 percent of the nation’s total number.

From 2009 to 2013, the county's land for growing herbs increased to more than 50,000 mu (3,330 hectares). The land can harvest 1,000 metric tons of fructus forsythiae, 200 tons of bupleurum and 100 tons of Schizonepeta each year.

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