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Agricultural industries help revitalize mountainous county

Xinhua, April 25, 2022 Adjust font size:

CHONGQING, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Xu Xianlin, a grower of water shield, proudly says he can cook different dishes with the aquatic vegetable to treat his growing number of guests since joining the booming rural tourism industry.

Xu is a villager from Balong Village, Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. More than 360 households in the village grow water shield, a medicinal and edible plant that is famous for its high nutritional value.

After three decades of development, the county has now become a major production area of water shield, with a total planting area of over 900 hectares. More than 10,000 tonnes of water shield from Shizhu county is exported to Japan and the Republic of Korea every year.

Besides water shield planting, villagers in Balong have begun to dabble in rural tourism. They run homestays and organize water shield picking and sightseeing activities to attract tourists.

"Although we have been affected by the epidemic, I still earned nearly 300,000 yuan (about 46,900 U.S. dollars) last year," said Xu.

Sitting deep in the mountains, Shizhu was once a poverty-stricken place. However, the small county has undergone huge changes due to the development of agricultural industries.

Since the local people love spicy food, farmers in Shizhu have planted chillies for hundreds of years. The county currently has more than 30,000 households growing over 6,666 hectares of chillies, and the output of the county's chilli industry has reached 700 million yuan.

To cultivate chilli with better quality, the county's chilli institute set up a scientific research team and spent five years creating a better chilli variety.

"Better quality products can attract more customers with higher prices. Therefore, farmers are willing to grow the new variety, and it will also help increase their income," said Tan Yangguo, leader of the team.

Relying on the good environment and lush alpine vegetation, Shizhu's Huangshui Township has become an important production area of coptis root, a traditional Chinese herb.

The county has built a whole industrial chain covering everything from research and development of planting technology to deep processing of the herb. There are nearly 10,000 households growing coptis for the industry, each of them earning over 30,000 yuan per year.

The county also built a large-scale coptis root trading market, and the annual trading volume of the herb accounts for about 90 percent of the country's volume.

Apart from coptis root planting, an increasing number of rural residents in the county have also begun planting other traditional Chinese herbs, further supplementing their incomes.

"We take advantage of the ecological environment and also attach importance to the production and market. The continuous improvement of Shizhu's chilli, coptis root and water shield industries, as well as the upgraded chains, will help villagers become richer and enjoy better lives," said Zhang Hua, Party chief of Shizhu county.