Revolutionary base's sweet path to prosperity
For Tao Qijin, an apple grower in Luochuan County of Yan’an City of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, mature apples not only bring a sweet taste but also the promise of a prosperous life.
A 65-inch TV set in Tao’s house, and two cars parked outside, are visible parts of his wealth.
“I owe it all to apple growing,” said Tao, who also plans to buy a new apartment.
By 2000, Tao had already expanded his orchard to 1.6 hectares. He has upgraded the varieties of the apple trees five times since. In 2020, the orchard fetched him 540,000 yuan (US$84,000).
Before apples, Tao tried growing wheat and tobacco, but could barely make ends meet for the family, once one of the poorest households in the village.
“Now these apple trees are my cash cows. I need to hire more than 20 helpers for the harvest,” he added.
Like Tao, an increasing number of farmers in Yan’an, the former revolutionary base of the Communist Party of China, have made their fortune from apple trees.
Yan’an’s apple cultivation originated during the period the city hosted the then headquarters of the CPC and was the center of the Communist revolution from 1935 to 1948.
Located on China’s Loess Plateau, Yan’an was one of the regions that suffered most from drought and soil erosion.
However, the Loess Plateau happens to provide optimum natural conditions for apple farming, such as high altitude, a deep soil layer, abundant sunshine, large temperature differences between day and night and moderate annual rainfall, making it one of the best apple-producing areas in China.
By the end of 2020, the total output of apples in Yan’an exceeded 3.7 million tons, accounting for one-ninth of the national output and one-twentieth of the global output, according to Lu Shuguo, head of Yan’an fruit industry center.
Also in 2020, Yan’an boasted 266,800 hectares of apple planting area, the largest among China’s prefecture-level cities.
As Yan’an strives to eliminate absolute poverty, apple farming has become a pillar industry for the city.
“At present, about half of the per capita disposable income of farmers in Yan’an comes from growing apples,” said Xue Zhanhai, the city mayor.
“The apples we grow have a beautiful shape, bright color and high sugar content,” said Wang Mingzhi, party chief of Luochuan County.
Apples from Yan’an are exported to more than 30 countries and regions including Russia, Canada, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.
Lu said that the annual output of apples in Yan’an is expected to reach 4.5 million tons by the end of 2025.