New busi­nesses blos­som­ing in Guangxi, China’s ‘ home of jas­mine’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS -

NAN­NING — Af­ter pro­cess­ing tea leaves for dif­fer­ent tea mak­ers for 20 years, Shang Dasen de­cided to estab­lish his own tea brand. Un­like many other tea mak­ers, Shang’s busi­ness, which he started in 2015 in his home­town in South­west China’s Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion, only pro­duces and sells jas­mine tea.

Lo­cated on the out­skirts of the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Nan­ning, Hengx­ian county is known as China’s “home of jas­mine.”

With his brand, which takes his name “Dasen”, Shang not only wanted to start a new busi­ness, but also to en­cour­age more vil­lagers to re­turn to their home­town to work grow­ing and pro­cess­ing jas­mine.

“I was happy to see that the vil­lages are be­com­ing more lively as more peo­ple re­turn home,” said Shang, whose fac­tory buys jas­mine blos­soms from about 500 lo­cal fam­i­lies, which make up nearly 3,000 vil­lagers.

Hengx­ian county is the ori- gin of 80 per­cent of the jas­mine on China’s mar­ket and 60 per­cent of the world mar­ket. It has been grow­ing jas­mine for decades.

How­ever, Ye Baofeng, a lo­cal gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, re­called that sales had not been very good in the past.

“Some­times farm­ers piled their un­sold flow­ers in the street be­cause they didn’t know where to sell them,” Ye said.

In or­der to help the in­dus­try, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment built a spe­cial­ized jas­mine plan­ta­tion in 2007. An in­dus­trial park was set up for jas­mine plant­ing, pro­cess­ing as well as tech­no­log­i­cal re­search and de­vel­op­ment in 2014.

With an in­vest­ment of 250 mil­lion yuan ($36.5 mil­lion), a to­tal plant­ing acreage of about 3,666 hectares and a se­ries of fa­vor­able poli­cies in­clud­ing free rent, free en­tre­pre­neur­ial guid­ance and man­age­ment con­sul­tancy ser­vices, the in­dus­trial park has at­tracted a num­ber of jas­mine-re­lated busi­nesses.

As the de­mand for jas­mine grows, vil­lagers are also see­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Shang’s com­pany, for ex­am­ple, earned over 20 mil­lion yuan in 2016. It ex­pects to dou­ble or even triple its earn­ings this year. As a re­sult of ex­pand­ing pro­duc­tion, the fac­tory now needs sev­eral met­ric tons of jas­mine blos­soms per day.

“Last year the av­er­age price we paid for the blos­soms was nearly 20 yuan per kilo­gram, but we be­lieve it will ex­ceed that amount this year,” Shang said.

“More peo­ple are re­turn­ing from cities to work in their home­towns as they have found that jas­mine can pro­vide them with a steady in­come,” Ye said.

Cur­rently there are 32 farm­ers’ co­op­er­a­tives and 12 fam­ily farms in the in­dus­trial park. The county, with a pop­u­la­tion of more than 1 mil­lion, has 330,000 peo­ple em­ployed in grow­ing jas­mine and over 130 com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing jas­mine tea, which pro­vide over 4,000 jobs for vil­lagers ev­ery year.

Lei Tingyi quit his job in Nan­ning to re­turn to Hengx­ian and set up a com­pany mak­ing jas­mine food prod­ucts.

“I helped my fam­ily pick jas­mine flow­ers from the age of six. When I turned 16, I was too busy with school work to con­tinue,” said Lei, who opened his busi­ness in the in­dus­trial park in 2014.

Lei had seen food prod­ucts made with flow­ers all around China dur­ing busi­ness trips while he worked for an au­to­mo­bile com­pany. He de­cided he could turn the jas­mine from his home­town into food prod­ucts as well.

At first, most of his friends op­posed the idea. “They said jas­mine is so com­mon in Hengx­ian and no one had ever used it in food, so there wouldn’t be any de­mand,” Lei said.

Af­ter two years, his prod­ucts have been sold far be­yond the county. The com­pany now has nine prod­ucts, in­clud­ing cake and pan­cakes, made with jas­mine flow­ers.

“The lo­cal gov­ern­ment helped us at­tend dif­fer­ent ex­hi­bi­tions and trade fairs to find more cus­tomers,” said Lei, whose com­pany pro­vides cus­tom­ized prod­ucts for more than 10 com­pa­nies, us­ing their own de­signs or pack­ag­ing, and co­op­er­ates with sev­eral pro­duc­tion fac­to­ries.

Last year, the an­nual pro­duc­tion value of jas­mine and jas­mine tea re­lated in­dus­tries was 6.5 bil­lion yuan in Hengx­ian, with the to­tal value of the county’s jas­mine and jas­mine tea brands reach­ing 18 bil­lion yuan.

Al­though Shang once con­sid­ered quit­ting the tea busi­ness due to the thin mar­gins, he is now work­ing on build­ing a new pro­duc­tion base for his “Dasen” tea.

“I will con­cen­trate on the jas­mine tea busi­ness — I hope to help make jas­mine, Hengx­ian county’s dis­tinc­tive prod­uct, be­come more com­pet­i­tive on the mar­ket,” he said.

YU XIANGQUAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Farm­ers pick­ing jas­mine tea in Hengx­ian county, in Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

LI JUNSHENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Sev­eral dozen de­liv­ery men ride down a street in Kaifeng, He­nan prov­ince.

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