HEFEI, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- As winter approaches, a ginger factory in Tongling City in Anhui Province, east China, meticulously stores nearly 5,000 kg of local white ginger seeds in a building with earthen walls and a tiled roof.
The building, which locals call the "ginger pavilion," is heated by wood fires and functions as a traditional drying and warming venue to prepare the seeds for planting next spring.
Jin Rulin, a provincial-level inheritor of the Tongling white ginger production technique, said that the cultivation and processing of this ginger involves 29 meticulous steps.
"From storage in the ginger loft to sun-drying the harvested ginger, every step is crucial," says Jin.
This technique, which has been practiced for over 2,000 years in the region, has recently been recognized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System.
For the local community, this age-old craftsmanship is not just a cultural treasure but also a vital source of livelihood.
At the ginger factory, large jars of fresh white ginger harvested in September are being processed. These ginger pieces, known for their large size and thin skin, are turned into a variety of products and distributed nationwide.
"It's a peak season for the production and sale of Tongling white ginger," said Jin, who manages about 6.7 hectares of land dedicated to ginger cultivation.
His cultivation base boasts a monthly white ginger yield of nearly 5,000 kg. While preserving the essence of traditional methods, Jin has innovated by exploring new flavors, packaging, and product derivatives, rolling out over a dozen white-ginger-related products.
His efforts have boosted local employment, engaging over 300 households in the ginger industry, and generating annual sales of nearly 8 million yuan (about 1.1 million U.S. dollars).
The thriving ginger industry in Tongling has witnessed substantial growth in recent years. According to local statistics, in 2022, the cultivation area reached over 386.7 hectares, with a total output value of 180 million yuan, involving more than 2,600 farming households and 35 processing and sales companies.
More and more young people are infusing innovation and technological advancement into the traditional craft. In 2019, then 33-year-old entrepreneur, Cheng Ling, along with his wife, returned to his hometown in Datong Town, a suburb of Tongling City, and established their own brand.
Beyond conventional ginger products, Cheng's brand has developed novel items such as ginger rice wine and ginger perfume, leveraging the power of the internet to reach a wider audience.
Annually, they produce nearly 25,000 kg of ginger products, distributing them nationwide.
Recognizing the importance of educating people about this ancient craft, Cheng and his wife have organized educational activities around the cultivation and processing of Tongling white ginger. These efforts have welcomed nearly 2,000 students.
"The older craftsmen are preserving (the traditions), and what we young people can do more is to accelerate and change," Cheng said, adding that they are working on online promotion of white ginger products and culture, and employing modern technologies like digital management to enhance efficiency. ■