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Overseas market grows for domestic vegetables

(China Daily) | 2021-03-26

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Villagers harvests watermelons at a greenhouse in Pingdu, East China's Shandong province. [Photo/IC]

Although it will still take weeks to harvest all of their cabbage, farmers in a town in Pingdu, Shandong province, have started preparing to sell the vegetables to overseas markets.

"We predict our outbound business will be as busy as last year," said Li Wenbin, who runs a vegetable trading business in the town of Renzhao.

He said his fresh vegetable sales to overseas markets-mainly Japan, South Korea and Malaysia-doubled to 20,000 metric tons last year due to high demand for kimchi, a dietary staple in South Korea.

South Korea endured an abnormally long rainy season and three typhoons last year that damaged large amounts of Chinese cabbage, the major ingredient for kimchi, creating high demand for the vegetable, according to media reports.

"The Chinese cabbages I grew on my own land couldn't meet demand last year, so I had to buy some from other growers," Li said.

This year, some of those farmers have expanded their cabbage growing.

"Based on the current performance of vegetable exports in parts of southern China, such as in Fujian province, we predict this year's business will not be bad," Li said, adding that he is confident because vegetables from Renzhao are competitive in terms of quality and price.

Around 120 kilometers west of Pingdu, vegetable traders in Shouguang, Weifang, one of the country's major vegetable production bases, have started exporting this year's carrots.

Pei Shengji, manager of Zhonglong Food, which is headquartered in Shouguang, said the harvesting of the company's 65-hectare carrot growing base in Fujian is in full swing.

"All of the carrots will be processed and shipped to overseas markets," he said.

The company has also developed growing bases in Hebei and Shaanxi provinces and the Inner Mongolia and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous regions to meet demand all year round.

"With growing bases located in areas with different temperatures, we can harvest fresh carrots four times a year," Pei said.

The company sold 150,000 tons of processed vegetable products last year, of which 80 percent went to overseas markets.

It has over 330 hectares of vegetable-growing land in Shandong, providing jobs for hundreds of farmers who can sign contracts with the company or work as temporary labor.

"Farmers can sign contracts with us and sell their vegetables to us to ensure their income," Pei said, adding that a farmer who planted 7 hectares of cabbages and bell peppers last year earned at least 500,000 yuan ($71,000).

The total output of Shandong's agricultural industry surpassed 1 trillion yuan last year, becoming the first province in China to reach that mark.

The value of vegetables sold to overseas markets rose 4.9 percent to 30 billion yuan.

The province's efforts to develop seeds to meet diverse needs for quality crops are helping to support the agricultural sector.

The Chinese cabbage seed used by most growers in Pingdu is domestically developed, Li said.

"The seed features high yield and the Chinese cabbage tastes good and is good for being preserved," he said, adding that it's much cheaper than foreign seeds.

In Weifang, seed developers have developed new seeds of more than 20 varieties of vegetables including asparagus, zucchini, tomato, Chinese cabbage, cucumber and eggplant, the Weifang seed development base said.

"Domestically developed seeds now account for over 75 percent of the total seeds used by growers in Weifang. A decade ago, it was 54 percent," said Gao Jiyue, from the seed development base.

Unlike Li, who can choose quality Chinese cabbage seeds developed in China, Pei has to spend more to buy foreign seeds.

"The cost of carrot seeds is one-third of my total cost, but I have no choice because there are no domestically developed carrot seeds available," he said.

Gao said Weifang's five-year plan includes the research and development of seeds of medium- and high-end vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli and carrots.