Grain’s roots

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By XIN­HUA in Ho­hhot

The cul­ti­va­tion of mil­let in In­ner Mon­go­lia has been on the rise since ar­chae­ol­o­gists pre­sented ev­i­dence that the grain orig­i­nated there.

Cul­ti­va­tion of mil­let in the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion has been on the rise ever since ar­chae­ol­o­gists pre­sented ev­i­dence that the grain orig­i­nated there.

In Ao­han Ban­ner, Chifeng city, 60,000 hectares of mil­let are un­der cul­ti­va­tion, about 4 per­cent of the na­tional crop, said Qiu Wenbo, head of the ban­ner.

Car­bonized grains of mil­let were found in Ao­han in the early 2000s, a dis­cov­ery sug­gest­ing that mil­let had be­come a sta­ple food of peo­ple there about 8,000 years ago, said Zhao Zhi­jun of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences’ In­sti­tute of Ar­chae­ol­ogy.

Ac­cord­ing to Liu Guox­i­ang, a CASS ar­chae­ol­o­gist and head of the Ao­han re­search base, mil­let first spread across-north­ern China, and then moved west­ward as far as Europe.

In 2012, the Ao­han dry­land farm­ing sys­tem was listed among Glob­ally Im­por­tant Agri­cul­tural Her­itage Sys­tems by the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United Na­tions.

Two years later, Ao­han was rec­og­nized as China’s “home­town of mil­let” by the Chi­nese Food In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion.

The ar­chae­o­log­i­cal in­sights drew at­ten­tion to farm­ing in the ban­ner, where one-fifth of the farm­land was de­voted to the crop.

The high­est price of a kilo­gram of mil­let from Ao­han now is 96 yuan ($14.3). “It was planted in the tra­di­tional way, with no chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers or pes­ti­cides,” Qiu said.

On Taobao, one of China’s big­gest on­line mar­ket­places, the brand “Eight Thou­sand Mil­let” sells for be­tween 15 and 30 yuan per kilo­gram, com­pared with six or seven yuan for nonor­ganic mil­let.

Al­most 70,000 hectares of mil­let will be un­der cul­ti­va­tion in Ao­han by 2020, with out­put ex­ceed­ing 225,000 tons, Qiu said.

“It is our hope that our mil­let, like silk, ce­ram­ics and tea, will be­come a sym­bol of Eastern cul­ture for peo­ple across the world,” he said.

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