Across China: Entrepreneurial youth turns quinoa flowers into blossoming business

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LANZHOU, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Quinoa seeds, originating from South America, are often favored by fitness enthusiasts due to their low caloric content and high nutritional value.

However, for Chen Junzhang, a young Chinese entrepreneur, the colorful quinoa flowers are more attractive than the seeds.

Chen lives in Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County of northwest China's Gansu Province, located at the eastern foothills of the Qilian Mountains. With an average altitude of more than 2,000 meters, it is the world's leading breeding base for the white yak.

Growing up in the hinterland, Chen was eager to get out of the remote mountains, so he chose to attend university in the coastal city of Dalian in northeast China's Liaoning Province. During his university years, Chen tried to make some pocket money by selling traditional Chinese medicinal herbs online.

The business helped him earn good money but more importantly, it made him realize the potential of e-commerce as well as the booming market of local specialties.

"My hometown Tianzhu is rich in various specialties, but they were left untapped in the mountains and were rarely known by people back then," he said.

After graduation, Chen returned to his hometown and set up an e-commerce company in 2014, selling local specialties such as white yak meat and fungus all over the country.

Together with a team of e-commerce professionals, his company helped a variety of distinctive agricultural products find a wider market through online sales. But the diligent young man was not content with merely selling ready-made products. Thanks to his perseverance, he soon identified a new market.

Since 2017, quinoa cultivation has become widespread in Tianzhu and Chen set his sights on it. "The yellow, green and red quinoa blossoms draw a great number of tourists every year, but the quinoa flowers wilted quickly due to their short flowering period. I wanted to find a way to preserve their beauty," he said.

He then reached a cooperation with a flower company in Yunnan Province to make dried quinoa flowers. In 2021, the distinct, preserved flowers stunned everyone at the 10th China Flower Expo held in Shanghai and won multiple awards.

Accessories, brooches and souvenirs made of dried quinoa flowers have gained popularity in the flower market, and they have been exported to countries and regions such as the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands and Japan. So far, the company's sales of dried quinoa flowers have reached almost 7 million yuan (about 1.05 million U.S. dollars).

Inspired by Chen, many of the youngsters who understand both technology and business operations are now willing to return to Tianzhu and play a part in revitalizing their hometown.

To create better prospects for employment and entrepreneurship, Tianzhu has built an incubation base for e-commerce, and nearly 10 e-commerce companies, including Chen's, have settled there.

Zhang Zhiqiang, deputy director with the bureau of commerce in Tianzhu, said that the return of talents is conducive to the optimization of industrial structure, thereby injecting vigor into the once backward area.

Having been engaged in the e-commerce industry for nearly 10 years, Chen feels the gap between his hometown and the outside world has narrowed down.

"My greatest desire is to see the local produce from my hometown reach even more parts of the world," he said. Enditem

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