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With passion fruit growth, wealth ripens in Wuping, Fujian

By Li Menghan in Longyan, Fujian | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-30 09:16
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A farmer tends to a passion fruit shrub at a plantation in Wuping county, Fujian province. HUANG YANHUA/FOR CHINA DAILY

Taking advantage of its unique geographical and natural benefits, Wuping county's Xiangdong town in Longyan, Fujian province, has discovered a harmonious approach to environmental preservation and economic progress through passion fruit farming.

"Located in a high-altitude basin, Xiangdong town is ideal for the growth of passion fruit, as the area benefits from ample sunshine, a gentle climate and fertile soil," said Tong Junyu, Party secretary of the town.

However, according to Tong, the potential for growing passion fruit was not discovered until about 10 years ago, when the town became aware of the detrimental effects of its traditional pillar industry — pig farming — on the environment and the wellbeing of the local residents.

"Due to unregulated expansion of the pig farming industry, untreated excrement and breeding wastewater discharged directly into water sources, degrading the water to the worst level of China's five-tier system," he said, adding that the affected water sources are now at the second-highest level.

While searching for an alternative, Tong said Xiangdong experimented with various plants suitable for subtropical conditions. Taking into account the growth period and the available market, the town settled on passion fruit as the most favorable solution.

Not everyone was sold on the idea, though, at first.

"Although we told villagers that planting passion fruit can yield returns even in the first year, many people adopted a wait-and-see attitude," he said, adding that with the assistance of local government subsidies, large-scale cultivation was finally achieved in 2018.

The growing popularity of passion fruit as a source of wealth has led some migrant workers to return to Xiangdong. Feng Qingyong, whose family used to rely on government subsidies due to their low income, is among those who have returned.

"In 2019, I left my security job in Xiamen, Fujian, and went back to my hometown," said Feng, 57. "During the first year, the town allowed me to use 2,000 square meters of land at no cost, along with complimentary samplings and shelves for the fruit, and I had a good harvest."

He emphasized the importance of meteorological conditions in the growth of passion fruit, adding that the ideal temperature for growth ranges from 20 to 30 C, with optimal humidity levels between 70 and 85 percent.

Feng also mentioned that fertilization should not be carried out immediately after rain, and extremely high temperatures can have an adverse effect on the passion flowers' ability to bear fruit.

"Passion fruit cultivation requires patient and careful nurturing, but the return is worthwhile," he said.

After five years of operation, he has expanded his farm to an area of 6,667 sq m.

Last year, he made a net profit of 110,000 yuan ($15,195), enough to cover the expenses of his son, who is currently studying at a university in Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian.

Meanwhile, Xiangdong has established a complete industry chain, involving cultivation, processing and sales.

Wang Xiuzhen, a graduate from Beijing who had never worked in the fields, decided to return to her hometown and become an entrepreneur.

"While working as an e-commerce operator in a big company after graduation, I sensed a business opportunity from the substantial daily order volume of products at my company. This, coupled with the thought of promoting high-quality agricultural products from my hometown, led to my decision to return," she said.

Drawing on her proficiency in speaking the Hakka dialect, Wang acquainted herself with local farmers, absorbing essential insights into passion fruit cultivation and addressing their concerns about sales. She has become well-versed in all matters related to passion fruit.

"Given the particularity of online sales, it is crucial to choose a proper harvest time and avoid picking during rainy and frosty days to extend the storage duration," she said.

Wang added that processed products such as candied fruit and flavored yogurt have curried favor with customers, and the fruit could be useful in the biomedical field.

Last year, after assessing climate resources and the quality of the town's passion fruit, the provincial meteorological service center certified that Xiangdong is graded as the "extra best" place for the growth of this fruit. Wang lauded the center's endorsement, saying it helped foster trust in the product from consumers and made them more willing to buy.

"I will take root in my hometown, promote its beautiful scenery and quality products, and prosper together with my fellow villagers," she said.

Liu Qian and Li Zishuo contributed to this story.

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