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Tropical agriculture bears fruit for farms

China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-02

China in the new era: beautiful new Hainan, shared new opportunities

As the traditional festival of Chinese Lunar New Year draws nearer, Li Mocai, a farmer from Chengmai county on the tropical island province Hainan, is at his busiest all year, picking green peppers from his 2-hectare farm and selling them to northern purchasing agents at a good price.

Hainan, endowed with a warm climate, is seeing rapid development in tropical high-efficiency agriculture and has become the biggest winter vegetable basket for the whole country, contributing about 3.6 million metric tons of vegetables every year.

Every winter and earlier spring, truckloads and containers of green peppers, egg plants, long beans, hami melons and watermelons are delivered to 170 Chinese cities and sold to 80 countries and regions around the world.

A total of 430 tons of lychee, longan, mango, paw paw and green oranges were exported from Hainan to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States while another 960 tons of fresh vegetables of more than 20 varieties were sold to Hong Kong in 2017, according to latest statistics from the Hainan provincial inspection and quarantine administration.

The province is now carrying out supply-side reform and has listed high-efficiency agriculture as one of its main industries. It is reducing the growing areas of rubber, sugarcane, cassava and traditional rice, which are less efficient and with lackluster market demand.

Last year, 10,000 hectares of sugarcane plantation were replaced by other tropical vegetables and fruits, adding the total reduction area to 34,200 hectares in the past three years, according to Xu Yun, head of the agriculture department of Hainan.

"The growing area of winter vegetables has been expanded to 200,000 hectares. The cherry tomatoes in Lingshui, hami melons in Ledong and vegetable carobs in Sanya have achieved good returns of 30,000 yuan ($4,609) for every 0.06 hectare," Xu said.

Ledong, a county with agriculture making up more than 70 percent of its GDP, and the only national modern agricultural demonstration county on the island, is popular among the tourists for its tropical fruits with fabulous flavor and for being a great area for growing bananas and hami melons in China.

"The county will make new efforts to forge its tropical high-efficiency modern agriculture by promoting branding operations, large-scale planting and standardization. All produce will be cultivated as a branded product," said Wu Chuanzhu, Party chief of Ledong.

High-technology has also been applied to enhance high-efficiency farming on the island. The Netherlands-made Hortimax plant growth monitor system, for instance, has been in operation at the 348-hectare Lingshui modern agriculture demonstration zone ever since its establishment in 2015.

The system monitors the growth of each plant, and decides the right moment to water and fertilizer and uses an intelligent temperature control adjustment system to provide a perfect temperature for plant growth. Each 3.3-hectare plantation needs only one technician to take care of it.

Science and technology are also helping to bear fruit in Lingshui. "The average per-hectare output of Meiyue watermelon can reach as high as 12,500 kilograms, with a market price of 9.8 yuan per kilogram, which is much higher than similar products," said Cai Ying, who is in charge of the produce department in the zone.

The good taste of the produce pushes up the demand, which exceeds the supply, so prices remain high. The leaf vegetables grown in the zone have a six-times higher output and 15 days shorter growth cycle than the traditional planting method.

While in Danzhou of western Hainan, farmers are reaping the benefits of rose growing, with rose fragrances already attracting thousands of tourists in the past year.

In addition, Danzhou has listed more than 10 projects for a total investment of 19.14 billion yuan to promote tropical high-efficiency agriculture, such as magnolia flower, sweet potato and tea plantations. All these projects will be integrated with tourism and other industries.

Liu Cigui, Party chief of Hainan, said the island province has unique advantages in developing tropical agriculture as a leading industry. It will stick to green farming and build Hainan into a demonstration zone for ecological and circular agriculture.

He added the province will also promote in-depth processing, warehousing and logistics services for farm produce. Investments are welcome for in-depth processing of coconuts, betel nuts, peppers, rubber and sea products.


Lingshui modern agriculture demonstration zone in Hainan is a national-level modern agriculture industrial park. [Chen Siguo/For China Daily]


Tourists pick green oranges fresh from the tree at an orange garden owned by Hainan's Haiken Group.