Delta areas create industry chain to profit from green assets
Rural areas in the Yangtze River Delta have formed an industry chain to generate wealth from green assets as traditional Chinese herbal medicine gains in popularity.
Chinese herbal medicine material bases in rural Lishui, Zhejiang Province, and An'qing, Anhui Province, supply health product manufacturers with shiitake mushrooms, glossy ganoderma, and fuling (poria cocos).
Qingyuan County in Lishui has 2.5 million mu (166,667 hectares) of forest land and 86 percent forest coverage, making it ideal to develop a forest economy.
According to Xinhua News Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN recognized the Qingyuan Forest-Mushroom Co-culture System (QFMCS) as the only Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) that focuses on edible fungi.
A high-altitude mountainous agroforestry system, QFMCS encourages sustainable forest management, the growth of the mushroom industry, and the use of resources in a cycle.
Shiitake mushroom cultivation began 800 years ago in Qingyuan. The county exported 396 million yuan (US$57.91 million) of edible fungi last year.
Many herbal medicine materials are supplied to companies like Infinitus, a Chinese herbal health product company that manages the entire industry chain from the farm field to the tip of the tongue.
The company with 697 patents has traceable plantations and management bases for Chinese herbal medicine in dozens of locations.
Authorities and firms have increased local farmers' income, and some young people are returning home.
Wu Yuanyan, 53, has 30 years of experience in producing shiitake mushrooms. He is in charge of a shiitake mushroom base in Qingyuan.
After his 20 mu of farmland became part of the industry chain, his annual income increased by nearly 30 percent.
Villagers who plant, pick and manage shiitake mushrooms saw their annual income increase by 30,000 yuan (US$4,391) to 40,000 yuan.
"We received training and certification on Chinese herbal medicine plantation and management, as well as modern and standardized planting methods, which increased our yields," Wu said.