南海聚焦

Chinese tea exports promote Belt & Road ties and alleviate poverty

发布者:1309005发布时间:2018-03-05浏览次数:10

Source: Global Times |2018-03-04  

   

Long Xianwen, a 52-year-old tea farmer from Niujiao village in Guzhang county, Hunan Province, never imagined several years ago that the tea produced from his tea plantation in the small village would end up being enjoyed by so many foreign tea drinkers.  

  

Tea grown in the village is currently being exported around the world, especially those countries and regions taking part in China's Belt and Road Initiative.  

  

The tea plantation lies among the Niujiao mountains at around 30 degrees north latitude and enjoys natural advantages when it comes to the microclimate, altitude, ecological environment and soil.  

  

However, locals paid little attention to this naturally-gifted environment in the past. Many years ago, villagers, myself included, left the village to find work, we had forgotten we were living right on a blessed land all along, Long told the Global Times.  

  

Now, things have changed. For Long, the plantation has become a gold mountain for Niujiao village that has helped lift villagers out of poverty while also helping drive the country's Belt & Road Initiative. 

  

According to Long, the tea from his village used to be served to royalty and officials in ancient China, now it has once again returned to glory as a highly reputed tea around the entire world. 

  

This is not the only change that has happened. Long himself has grown from an ordinary tea farmer to one of the newly elected deputies to the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature. 

  

Full of ambition, Long hopes to expand the local tea industry. He plans to submit his ideas about sustainable development of the tea industry at the upcoming two sessions, as well as advocate for improved local tourism and better local traffic conditions. 

  

Promoting border trade 

  

Chinese tea has become increasingly prominent on the global stage.  

  

Data from independent education and research website World's Top Exports shows that China was the largest tea exporter in 2016 with an export value of $1.5 billion, accounting for one-fifth of global tea exports, followed by Sri Lanka, Kenya, India and the UAE. 

  

And according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, China's global tea production share has continued to climb over the past few years. From 36 percent in 2013, it rose to nearly 41 percent in 2016. 

  

Long still remembers the day he visited Italy and presented Chinese tea and tea art at the Milan Expo in 2015. The village's Guzhang Maojian, a typical Chinese green tea produced in Hunan, won the gold medal for global green tea at the expo. 

  

According to Xiong Jia, general manager of the Hunan branch of tea company China Tea, green tea, black tea and dark tea are the Chinese teas that have had the most success in Belt and Road countries and regions. Black and dark tea are preferred by those living in the far-eastern portion of Russia, Central Asia and South Asia, while African countries seem to prefer green tea. 

  

For instance, Uzbekistan's Samarkand Tea Packing Factory has been importing tea from China for around 40 years. While it also imports tea from Iran, Kenya and Vietnam, most of its orders go to China, which accounts for around 60 percent of its imports. 

  

Chinese tea is always of high quality, although the cost is high, a representative from the factory told the Global Times in an email interview. 

  

As for Africa, the green tea Desert Boat, the most exported Chinese-brand green tea, is highly welcomed there. Like in Uzbekistan, Chinese products have set the standard for green tea in local markets. 

  

The quality and type of products we offer differ greatly as a result of the cultural differences among customers [in different countries and regions], noted Xiong.  

  

African drinkers tend to boil green tea in a pot, adding sugar and mint to the mix, drinkers in the Russian Far East and Central Asia prefer boiling tea with milk and salt, while Europe and the US prefer using tea bags for their convenience.  

  

We provide different products according to customer preferences. 

  

Usually, Xiong's company transports its goods in one of two ways: By sea or over the land by train.  

  

Shipments to Africa, Europe and the US usually leave by boat from Shanghai or Shenzhen and take around 30 days to arrive, while deliveries to Central Asia are shipped mainly by train. From Hunan, tea products travel on truck or train all the way to the Alashankou port in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, then make their way to various countries by train.  

  

In 2016, about 72 percent of cargo trains traveling to and from China and Europe passed through Xinjiang. This number jumped to more than 90 percent in 2017, the Xinjiang-based Urumqi Evening News reported.  

  

As a result, tea consumption in Xinjiang has increased in recent years.  

  

It takes just a couple of hours to go from Urumqi to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrghyzstan. They speak a similar language, drink tea in a similar way and share similar cultures, said Xiong. 

  

The Hunan branch of China Tea is now researching ways to improve tea to better fit the tastes of younger generations in Xinjiang. Currently, the company is trying to find a way to make tea easier to mix with milk. 

  

We want to make tea and milk mix naturally together without the need to boil it. If we can do this, we think young consumers will turn to our tea, said Xiong.  

  

In Xiong's opinion, her tea has had the added benefit of helping national utility. Many Uyghur people in Xinjiang tell me they grew up drinking our tea, she said proudly.