Officials, businesses seek to aid tea trade

Updated: 2014-04-21 07:24

By Li Yu and Peng Chao in Chengdu (China Daily)

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The local government and tea companies are trying to boost the tea industry in Ya'an, one of China's largest tea production areas, a year after the region was hit by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake.

Although the tea fields were almost unscathed, the tea industry in Ya'an suffered a great loss as leaves were left unpicked in the fields at peak season.

"Many of the dealers left for safety reasons. The workers, most of whom live in the quake-stricken area, went home to take care of their families and rebuild their houses," said Yang Yongxiang, director of Mingshan district's tea industry development bureau.

Mingshan district is the main tea producing area in Ya'an. It has about 20,000 hectares of tea fields and 200,000 workers who pick the leaves. Tea has long been the main source of income for people there.

Official statistics show that 365 of the 1,000 tea makers in the district were affected by the quake, causing a direct economic loss of about 540 million yuan ($86.83 million).

The quake, together with a harsh frost earlier in the year, led to a 42 percent decrease in the district's tea production in March and a 55 percent decrease in April from the previous year.

Yang said the district is trying to boost its tea industry with reconstruction funds of more than 100 million yuan, mostly from the central government.

"As much as 31 million yuan was used to breed better varieties and 57.4 million yuan to reconstruct the industry," Yang said at the Mingshan Tea Breeding Ground, one of the nation's first six tea breeding centers.

The center has bred two national-level varieties since its establishment in 1987. One variety has been planted in tea fields nationwide covering a combined area of more than 133,000 hectares, about 7 percent of the country's total, Yang said.

The center's 3,000-square-meter headquarters was destroyed in the quake, but a new headquarters has now been built. Other facilities including roads, irrigation ditches and tea producing bases were also built to aid the industry.

Dozens of workers are now picking in the fields, chatting and laughing as they work.

"You may write in your paper that we workers need to be better paid," said Ren Xiaoyan, who has been picking tea for more than 10 years. She earns about 100 yuan a day during the season, which lasts from March to May.

At the foot of the Mengding mountain in Mingshan district, a newly built tea market covering 80,000 sq m will go into full use in the second half of the year. Some local tea makers have moved into the traditional-style stores.

Ye Longze, general manager of Mengdingshan Tea Market, said the market will represent 5,000 tea makers from the Mengding tea producing area. Trade volume is expected to reach 25 million kilos, about half that of the entire Mengding tea-producing area.

"The market will benefit the tea farmers by attracting more dealers and keeping a proper and steady price," Ye said.

He said the market will also help promote the Mengding tea brand. Mengding tea, with a history of 2,000 years, has been offered to emperors from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) until 1911, when China's monarchy ended.

(China Daily 04/21/2014 page4)