Tea Export Plan Brewing

Southwest China's Yunnan Province launched its first Spring Tea Trade Fair yesterday in its capital Kunming, showcasing a variety of quality green, red and organic tea.

The province, which boasts the most tea plantations, is determined to fast-track the development of tea production as a pillar industry.

"With China's western development, Yunnan should take the opportunity to develop its tea industry, presenting its tea to the whole country and the whole world," said Huang Bingsheng, vice-governor of Yunnan.

In its 10th five-year plan (2001-05), the provincial government has pledged to invest 6 million yuan (US$724,000) each year to create 6,667 hectares of new tea farms using organic fertilizers and pesticides to produce organic tea.

Yunnan had 164,000 hectares of tea plantations at the end of 2000, accounting for 14.8 per cent of all tea farms in the country.

Growing tea plants and making tea has been a traditional industry for the rural people of the province for thousands of years. The best known teas are Dianhong, Pu'er and Tuo Tea.

Although the three names may not be as well-known in China as Longjing and Wulong, the red tea Dianhong used to be a best-seller in Western European countries and the United States in 1970s and 80s.

Exports declined in the late 80s when the European countries imposed stricter standards on chemical remnants allowed in tea products.

Other tea-producing countries, including India and Kenya, took a large share of the world market by producing organic tea.

The export of China's red tea fell from about 100,000 tons a year at its height to less than 30,000 tons last year.

Experts said Yunnan has natural advantages in producing organic tea for the world market.

The province's altitude between 1,200 and 2,000 meters, temperatures between 12 and 23 C, and good soils make Yunnan a better place than many other countries and regions to produce red tea, said Zou Jiaju, director of the Tea Association of Yunnan.

More importantly the mountainous tea farms of Yunnan are in an unpolluted environment, and most of the farmers are still using the traditional organic fertilizers and few chemical pesticides, Zou said.

According to a test by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the remnant chemicals found in Yunnan's tea are the least among the more than 1,000 teas tested from across the country.

The development of the tea industry will play a significant role in helping the people of Yunnan escape poverty, Zou said.

(China Daily 04/06/2001)

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