Employees from a tea factory pick tea leaves in Anhua county, central China's Hunan province. Picture: Deng Taiping/People's Daily Online
Employees from a tea factory pick tea leaves in Anhua county, central China's Hunan province. Picture: Deng Taiping/People's Daily Online

China’s Anhua county lifts people out of poverty by reinvigorating dark tea industry

By People’s Daily Online SA Time of article published Apr 20, 2021

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Sun Chao, Liu Ganggui

Through revitalization of its black tea industry and integrated development of the industry and tourism, Anhua county, Yiyang city, central China's Hunan province, which is known for its dark tea, successfully freed more than 100,000 registered poor people from poverty.

Due to its old model of inefficient and blind development, Anhua’s black tea industry has experienced a trough, when the county’s tea planting area dropped sharply. In 2014, the number of registered poor people in Anhua county exceeded 158,000.

In recent years, Anhua county has intensified efforts to revitalize its traditional dark tea industry by forging closer links between tea farmers and enterprises, promoting higher-quality development of tea industry, and integrating the development of black tea industry and tourism.

Thanks to these efforts, so far the planting area of tea in Anhua county has reached 360,000 mu (about 240 square kilometres). With an annual tea output of nearly 90,000 tons, the county now enjoys an annual comprehensive output value of over 22 billion yuan ($3.4 billion) from the tea industry, and lifted over 100,000 registered poverty-stricken locals out of poverty.

Anhua Yuntaishan Bajiao Tea Co., Ltd., one of the key companies that help fight poverty in Hunan, runs a tea garden covering an area of 6,000 mu, and has been helping local tea farmers with the management of 4,000 mu of tea through pairing assistance.

These farmers could receive a subsidy of 1,000 yuan from the government for each mu of tea they grow, according to Deng Chaozhi, general manager of the company, who added that the company provides farmers with free tea seedlings, fertilizers and technical guidance and purchases their tea at a price that is not lower than the agreed reserve price.

A dark tea museum located in Anhua county, central China's Hunan province. Picture: Official website of the government of Anhua county

At the beginning of last year, the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic depressed the tea market, which worried Deng a lot.

To cushion the impact of the pandemic on tea gardens, the local government actively broadened sales channels for tea farmers.

With the efforts of the government, over 20 companies placed orders for the local tea, some of which, though don’t engage in tea business, voluntarily ordered customized gift boxes of tea, with the number ranging from several hundred to over one thousand.

Leading companies in the county such as Anhua Yuntaishan Bajiao Tea Co., Ltd. have played a major role in assisting local tea business and alleviating poverty.

"Leading companies have great potential for growth and relatively stronger risk resistance capacity, which makes them suitable for driving industry growth and helping ensure stable income for poor households," said Zhou Denggao, deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Anhua county committee.

Zhou noted that the government, villages, and tea farmers also do their own part to help leading companies with production and sales.

Anhua county allocates funds to support the construction of tea bases every year, and provides subsidies for seedling bases, newly-built tea gardens as well as the renovation of old tea gardens.

In the recent three years, over 50 private enterprises and specialized farmers' cooperatives raised over 200 million yuan to develop a new business model to guarantee steady growth of income for tea farmers. The new model allows clients to place orders before production, and then purchase relevant products at a price not lower than the agreed reserve price.

Meanwhile, Anhua county has innovated its marketing model, which is mirrored in its modern warehouses for local dark tea.

Unlike traditional warehouses, the modern ones are kept at proper humidity and temperature, and equipped with cameras that are online 24/7, allowing customers in various regions of China to check the tea bricks stored there online in a real time manner.

"We are exploring experience-oriented marketing, encouraging customers to visit the tea gardens and warehouses and taste the tea before placing orders," said Long Wenchu, a villager who returned to Anhua county from Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province, to engaged in the tea business.

Many tea enthusiasts and experts buy tea after seeing the tea gardens and relevant products in the county, which usually brings an average sales volume of 30,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan, much higher than the traditional sales model, the former migrant worker added.

According to Long, his company is developing a new marketing plan to attract more customers to tea gardens in Anhua.

To further improve the quality of local tea, Anhua has advanced pollution-free production and management and pushed the certification of organic tea, green tea, and pollution-free tea bases in recent years. The county has high-quality and certified organic tea gardens covering an area of 60,000 mu.

It has set up a batch of dark tea scientific and research institutions and basically formed a tea industry cluster centered on deep processing of tea and supplemented by services related to storing, logistics and scientific research.

In addition to promoting higher-quality development of tea industry, Anhua has also found a new path to the integrated growth of tea industry and tourism.

In Huangshi village of Anhua, a newly-built complex that features the combination of sightseeing, leisure activities and fruit picking has attracted a great number of visitors.

Tea cooperatives and tourism companies have planted over 1,000 mu of tea in the village and built an orchard covering an area of 280 mu.

Besides, the village has transformed a pond that was often waterlogged into a lotus pool and built water rafting facilities on a river by the village.

These projects have made the 115 households in Huangshi become shareholders of the collective economy of the village, and turned tourists into major buyers of the local tea, thus bringing greater benefits to locals.

Over the recent years, Anhua county has constructed many key projects that help integrate the tea industry with tourism, including a modern agricultural industrial park, a dark tea museum, a tea-themed township, and live performances.

These projects have played significant roles in driving the growth of both tea industry and tourism. In 2018 and 2019, the number of visitors to Anhua county exceeded 6 million and 7 million respectively, while the county’s annual comprehensive tourism output value reached 5.2 billion yuan and 7.5 billion yuan respectively.

With a batch of tea-themed homestay hotels and tea-themed hot spring businesses thriving in the county, while deep-processed tea products are being developed at an ever-growing pace, more and more local people have witnessed constant improvement in their living standards.

* This article was published in partnership with People’s Daily Online SA.

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