Luochuan apples File photo: courtesy of Luochuan County Government
Yan’an is known to most people as an ancient, important revolutionary base for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), since it housed the CCP’s headquarters at the time and was the center of the communist revolution from 1935 to 1948, but this mountainous city in northwest China’s Shaanxi has other things to offer than its wealth of revolutionary history and spirits – the sweet and juicy Luochuan apples, which have become famous domestically and are sold to about 20 countries and regions worldwide.
Luochuan is a county of Yan’an where a key meeting in the history of the CCP was held in August 1937 to establish the Party’s policy on safeguarding political and military independence and mobilizing the people in the united front against Japanese aggression.
More than eight decades later, Luochuan has once again become a role model in the nation’s latest rural revitalization strategy. In doing so, Asi Village has played a pioneering role in developing scientific agriculture, eco-tourism and marketing local quality products through online platforms to boost local growth and benefit the people.
When the Global Times reporter arrived in early August, he saw numerous khaki bags hanging from short and green trees in fields alongside village roads. But the reporter also noticed something odd — white fishnet-like objects were attached to cement stakes in the trees, and iron chains connected the stakes from above.
The short apple trees looked very different from a traditional tall apple tree. Asi Village Party Chairman Li Baoyin told the Global Times that it is an adapted apple variety, which is shorter, has a smaller crown and bears fruit faster.
Apples are packed with nets hanging over them to prevent hailstorms in Luochuan in Yan’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, August 4, 2022. Photo: Zhang Han/GT
Apples are usually bagged to prevent birds and insects from eating them. The sacks are removed for one to two weeks to allow sunlight to turn the apples red. A shorter plant and smaller crown means packing and unpacking will be easier and the task will require less than half the staff, the Global Times learned.
The net-like object was erected to prevent hailstorms that occasionally occur in Shaanxi in late summer and early autumn and could severely affect yields.
Farmers and agriculture specialists are in close exchange on variety cultivation and tending techniques to ensure successful yields, Qu Juntao, a research fellow at the Luochuan apple industry administration, told the Global Times. The local weather authority offers reminders for apple growth, e.g. B. extreme heat or hailstorm.
Seedlings of the new variety are 50 yuan ($7.4) more expensive than the regular variety, and the structures, including cement poles and nets, cost 4,200 yuan per mu (0.07 hectare) after government subsidies. But it can bear fruit in the year it is planted, and reduced staff also saves a lot, Li said. Farmers can get about 30,000 yuan from a mu of the new variety.
As of 2021, 530,000 out of 640,000 mu of arable land are apple trees, of which 120,000 mu are the shorter variety. Farmers’ disposable income exceeded the provincial average for rural areas, and the industrial volume is 11 billion yuan, some of which is contributed by fruit picking and eco-tourism.
Staff members sell Luochuan apples via live stream in Luochuan in Yan’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, on Aug. 4, 2022. Photo: Xiao Yi/ China Economic Weekly
It was Asi villager Li Xin’an who transported about 200 apple seedlings from a village 360 kilometers away in 1947 to improve the livelihood of the locals since the barren soil could hardly produce enough crops. More than 70 years later every family [in the village] is planting apples, and Asi Village is a pioneer in Luochuan’s apple industry, said village party chief Li proudly. “We don’t have to worry about sales as merchants come from all over the country to buy online or place orders.”
The Luochuan apple was a supplier to the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics and the brand is valued at 68 billion yuan, the local government told the Global Times. Under the Luochuan apple name, companies in the county have set up 143 offline retail stores, 42 wholesale stores and 3,600 online stores. The online stores and live-streaming advertisements have greatly boosted the fame and sales of Luochuan apples.
The county has 36 automatic apple picking lines to select quality fruit and cold stores with a total capacity of 680,000 tons to ensure a continuous supply all year round. At a local apple processor, according to the Global Times, cold storage can extend the sale of apples to 18 months while preserving most of the original flavor.
Local companies are expanding the industrial chain to increase profit margins and increase local competitiveness through the production of cider and apple chips.
After a successful stunt in the domestic market, the Luochuan apple is exploring overseas markets. As a representative of Shaanxi, Luochuan received approval from the US Department of Agriculture in 2014 to export apples to the country and is currently trading through commercial agents.
These apples are also reaching consumers’ tables in dozens of countries and regions, including Kazakhstan, Russia, the ASEAN member states, India, as well as the UK, Canada and Argentina.
With the improvement of seedlings, agriculture, processing, distribution and branding, apples have become the key to Luochuan’s wealth.
In Shaanxi, there are more places like Luochuan – exploring the potential of a local specialty through agricultural technology, lengthened industrial chains, better branding and sales techniques, to find a rural revitalization path suitable for reality.