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January 18, 2024  China Daily   

Xinjiang Villagers Find a Better Way with Wheat

Story; Value Chain Development for Smallholders; Wheat Production; Xinjiang

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Over the past 15 years, the residents of Yaozhanzi village in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have transformed their lives by developing their farmland into a wheat grain hub, increasing the output value of various industries to 560 million yuan ($78 million) last year.

Located in Qitai county, Changji Hui autonomous prefecture, the village's climate makes it an ideal area for wheat production. In 2009, it established the Fengyu agriculture service professional cooperative to promote intensive, standardized and branded cultivation of 2,333 hectares of wheat.

Since then, the 443 households in the village have become shareholders of the cooperative. Its residents receive land transfer fees, and as shareholders of the cooperative, they also net dividends at the end of the year. As of last year, the land area managed by Yaozhanzi has increased to 13,333 hectares, and in 2022, villagers' overall dividends reached 6.8 million yuan.

To improve food quality, the village decided to develop organic agriculture. Starting in 2014, it took villagers three years to eradicate chemical residuals in the soil so it could obtain organic agricultural product certification.

The wheat's quality is well-known in the market. The price of organic wheat flour is 20 yuan per kilogram, while ordinary wheat flour sells for only 4 to 5 yuan per kg.

"We have applied modern agricultural technologies such as aerial spraying, precision seeding, water-fertilizer integration, and integrated tillage and sowing," said Tang Peike, Party secretary of Yaozhanzi.

Tang added that with only 114 people, they can manage over 13,000 hectares of cultivated land. Last year, the per capita net income was 36,000 yuan.

To extend industrial chains and promote agricultural products sales, the village established the Xinjiang Fengyu Agricultural Development Co in 2017. It spent 50 million yuan to set up an industrial park that produces more than 40 kinds of organic agricultural products, including organic flour, handmade ramen, edible oil and coarse cereals. Some of them were added to the nation's renowned new agricultural products list.

Zhao Liang, a resident who works at the company, said he receives about 80,000 to 90,000 yuan for transferring his farmland to the cooperative every year.

"Meanwhile, I can earn 8,000 yuan every month by working in the plant. It's quite convenient to take care of my parents," he added.

Li Qiang, head of the company, said that last year, it built a new 3,000-square-meter handmade ramen drying workshop and a 2,500-square-meter packaging workshop to promote deep processing of agricultural products.

In addition, it embarked on tourism industry development in 2019. Han Le, who heads the Xinjiang Fengyu Cultural Tourism Development Co as well as a wheat culture museum, said more than 130,000 people visited the village last year, and tourism revenue reached a record 30 million yuan.

Besides establishing the wheat culture museum, Yaozhanzi spent 30 million yuan to build a dining center, a homestay, a noodle house and a scarecrow park. Tourists can also see how flour, ramen and edible oil are produced in the plant.

"Next, we will build a 10-hectare garden for fruit and vegetable picking, and a petting zoo area where parents and children can bond," Han said. "And rural rehabilitation will begin operation next year."


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