Pest produces promising profits for farmers
JINAN: Locusts may long have plagued farmers and governments alike for hundreds of years, but these pests have now source of income in impoverished regions in East China's Shandong Province.
Xin Dezhan, a farmer from the village of Xinjiazhuang in Wudi County, has earned more than 5,000 yuan (US$600) net income by this July from raising locusts.
Locusts are transported live from Xin's farm to cities in northeastern China, where locusts are fried and eaten for their claimed nutritional value.
Xin, in his 50s, built a total of nine gauze houses in April, each covering 40 square metres, where locusts were raised. His early investment totalled less than 4,000 yuan (US$483). Xin introduced his first group of locust larvae, which matured after less than two months.
"I sell my locusts at 16 yuan (US$1.9) per kilogram, and the price can rise to more than 100 yuan (US$12) when my buyer delivers to cities in northeastern China," said Xin. "Even if my locusts sell at a low price, the economic benefits are much higher than from grain-planting, for less input and quick returns."
According to another locust raiser Du Qifa in Guoyi Village, locusts are very easy to foster due to their very strong immunity, and the creature can be bred twice a year.
The companies and merchants that buy locusts from the farmers and sell them to restaurants and retailers get the lion's share of the money. And raising locusts is attractive to many farmers due to the relatively low costs.
The locusts are totally covered in the gauze houses, where they eat fresh grass, corn or black wheat and drink a great deal of water. The grown-up locusts are transported in nets and refrigerated before being sold to restaurants.
Research shows that the East Asia migratory locust, the species raised by local people, is rich in 18 kinds of amino acid. It is delicious, clean and as big as 6 to 7 centimetres long and 2 to 3 centimetres wide.
It is a popular dish in Harbin, Tianjin and parts of Hebei Province, as well as in many Southeast Asian countries.
Experts say that raising insects can be another source of income for rural areas besides raising poultry. Since the late 1990s it has become increasingly difficult for grain producers in China to increase their incomes through farming.
To date, there are more than 50 families like Xin's raising locusts in Wudi County. Xin said he is also learning how to raise flies, and planning to start next year. Flies are a special nutritious food for chicks, and more profitable than locusts.
However, experts also point out that more government support is needed to help and lead farmers to expand the scale of their operations and improve the technical level. For example, Xin said he needs more land to grow grass or grain to feed more locusts. Failing to meet the required standards, he could not sell his products to a Mexican purchaser in June.