Wondrous Xinjiang: Plum farming thrives with new tech

Plums planted in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are known for their sweet and juicy taste thanks to the region's prolonged sunshine and temperature difference.

Plums planted in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are known for their sweet and juicy taste thanks to the region's prolonged sunshine and great day and night temperature difference. However, it was once a headache for local farmers to preserve the fresh plums until new technologies changed that.

Payzawat County in Xinjiang is the country's largest production base of high-quality plums. The introduction and application of new technologies and practices are bringing local orchardists increasing incomes, a better life, and a promising future.

One year into his work at the Doowin Goodies Pilot Plant in Payzawat, an agro-tech company, Aiztiali Yimam, a 26-year-old resident and college graduate, is still amazed by the new changes.

"There are many things I have never seen in the past, including preservation technologies from Japan and the Netherlands, as well as smart sorting equipment from France," he said.

The young man is responsible for operating the plant's fresh-storage facilities. "Every two hours, I have to check all the fresh-keeping storehouses to make sure the equipment is running properly, and the temperature-controlling equipment directly determines the quality of the plums," Aiztiali Yimam explained.

He said that in the past, the plums had to be sold within about 20 days of picking. "They could not sell at a good price, and the plums that didn't sell could only be made into dried fruits," he added.

Now, with the assistance of new technologies and equipment, plums can be stored for much longer, and the sales period has been extended to two to six months, allowing the fruit to reach customers farther away and the price to be kept relatively stable.

To take advantage of the new technologies, Payzawat County has built a cold storage system with a total storage capacity of about 100,000 tonnes.

Kurban Hupur, who has been planting plums for nearly two decades, constructed three cold storage units of more than 200 square meters in front of his house three years ago. "I will sell my plums when the price is appropriate and put them in cold storage when the price is low," he said.

In just a few years, Kurban Hupur's planting area of plums grew from 4 mu (about 0.27 hectares) to more than 20 mu. In 2020, he started a cooperative to buy more than 100 tonnes of plums annually.

Kurban Hupur said that with government support, he established a cooperative with direct contact with buyers, and there have been several long-term partners from provinces like Zhejiang in the east and Guangdong in the south.

As more and more plum growers have begun to focus on quality, the fruit produced here has become increasingly popular. Businessmen from all over China flock to Payzawat every year to place orders even before the plums are ripe.

Nowadays, plums from Payzawat are also exported to Southeast Asia and Central Asia. This August, Payzawat plums were transported to the southern Chinese metropolis of Shenzhen by cold chain transport and then to Malaysia by sea.

The plum planting area in Payzawat County has reached 450,000 mu, with the total output value estimated at 4.5 billion yuan (about 643 million U.S. dollars) annually.

"New technologies and large enterprises have gathered in our small county, making our plums more and more famous," said Kurban Hupur. "I'm earning more, which improves our lives and gives my family more opportunities to go out and see the outside world."

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