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Cross-Straits agricultural policy bears fruit in Fujian
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Thanks to the government's efforts to boost cross-Straits agricultural cooperation, farmers from Taiwan have been tasting success on the mainland.

"It is juicy and is just as sweet as those grown in Taiwan," He Wenyuan, a 49-year-old farmer from Taiwan said of his lianwu, or bell fruit, originally grown in Taiwan but now being farmed in Fujian Province.

He said the fruit was pesticide free and selling well at the 9th Cross-Straits Flower Expo, despite being relatively expensive at 100 yuan ($13) a box. During the annual flower and farm products expo, held last week in Zhangzhou in Fujian, farmers like He were happy to recount their success stories, after starting fruit businesses on the mainland.

Before moving to Fujian in 2000, He specialized in planting bell fruit, also known as "black diamonds" because of their distinctive diamond shape, sweet taste and nutritiousness.

"Taiwan has modern agriculture with intensive farming, advanced management and a mature market. But due to high production costs, profits have been shrinking," He said.

As a result, seven years ago, He decided to move to Longhai, a county in Zhangzhou.

Fujian is the ancestral home of about 80 percent of the Taiwan population and has many linguistic, cultural and climatic similarities.

About 35.8 percent of Taiwan's population claims Zhangzhou as their "hometown".

Additionally, farming costs are much lower.

Even so, things did not run smoothly for He, at first. He planted 50 acres of bell fruit in Longhai, but found it difficult to promote and sell his produce.

Chen Naizheng, a researcher with the agricultural department in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian, said local farmers are used to managing their business in an isolated, smallholder's way.

"There were no mature sales networks or agricultural cooperative organizations to help," Chen said.

Things have improved since the central government prioritized agriculture. The cross-Straits farming cooperation has became important in fostering a closer geographical and cultural relationship between Fujian and Taiwan.

With the support of the central government, agricultural cooperation organizations have emerged. They are organized by farmers producing the same products, provide advice on farming techniques, market information and the distribution of farm products to supermarkets.

In Fujian, Taiwan farmers have joined the agricultural cooperation organizations, bringing new farm products, techniques and management experience, while enjoying the benefits, as local farmers, of the province's 342 cooperative organizations.

In 2005, an agricultural experiment area was established in Fujian, aiming to reinforce agricultural cooperation between Fujian and Taiwan.

According to figures from the agricultural bureau of the provincial government, Fujian has approved 1,957 agricultural investments from Taiwan this year, worth about $2.48 billion.

In his report to the Communist Party of China's 17th National Congress last month, Hu Jintao stressed economic cooperation between Fujian and Taiwan. In practice this means putting forward preferential policies to facilitate agricultural cooperation between the two sides, he said.

Up to this year, He Wenyuan has spent 5 million yuan on planting bell fruit.

"As the market on the mainland grows, I think more people will like my black diamonds," he said.

(China Daily November 27, 2007)

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