Staff members present pieces of avocado at Food and Agricultural Products exhibition area during the second China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, east China, Nov. 9, 2019. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)
KUNMING, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Fruit growers in a China-Myanmar border county are working hard to pick ripe avocados in time for the festive market around the Chinese Lunar New Year, in order to secure good prices for their products.
Avocado has become a money crop in Menglian county, southwest China's Yunnan Province, which has placed its bet on cultivation of this fruit since 2014.
With a seasonal fruit output of 15,000 tonnes, Menglian is currently China's largest avocado growing county.
Yanhou, a local grower and member of the Wa ethnic minority group, said that as one of the first to embrace avocado growing in Yinggou Village, he expects his orchard to secure him 100,000 yuan (about 14,870 U.S. dollars) in income this season.
Since 2018, he has planted more than 60 mu (4 hectares) of avocados. At first, only about a quarter of the trees yielded fruit.
"It's not easy to try something new," he said, adding that thanks to the help of the local government and agricultural specialists, he has grasped skills such as effective pesticide use, irrigation, weeding and orchard management. He now shares these skills with his fellow villagers.
Avocado is an alien crop to locals who traditionally relied on the cultivation of rubber, tea and sugar cane.
Chinese call avocado "butter fruit" due to its creamy flesh. Imports of this exotic product have received a warm market response in China, giving Chinese fruit growers the confidence to embrace the nutrient-rich fruit for mass cultivation.
The tropical county of Menglian has climatic conditions similar to the world's main avocado producing areas.
Fang Yanling, the person in charge of rural asset management in Nayun Township, Menglian, said in order to maximize the potential of the local avocado cultivation industry, no mistakes can be made in the process from organization of planting, to sorting and transporting.
She said the township now boasts 16,000 mu of avocado growing orchards, which are expected to achieve a revenue of over 1 million yuan this season. The locals can receive dividends from the collectively-owned orchards.
"We expect more fruit yield from the orchards next year, and there will be more earnings," said Fang.
"Avocado growing has become a new source of income for farmers," said Han Bo, deputy county chief.
He said that since 2014, the local government has been committed to promoting avocado planting. New growers can receive subsidies as incentives for trying avocado cultivation. The local government has also introduced specialists to support seedling research and improve fruit growing techniques in the county.
The total avocado planting area in Menglian has exceeded 70,000 mu, with 25,000 people in six townships engaged in the industry.
The Wa ethnic village of Yinggou has replaced its traditional corn growing practice with avocado and coffee plantations.
Local people in Menglian have become keen to develop novel avocado dishes, combined with local dietary characteristics, such as fried avocados, pickles mixed with avocados, stewed chicken with avocados and fried meat with avocados.
"To eat an avocado raw, half is enough. But once it is cooked, I can eat one," said villager Zha'er, who believes new dishes can spur demand for this fruit. ■