Across China: Healthy diets revive old rice strain
HAIKOU, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Shanlan rice, an old strain of rice which was planted by locals in the southern island province of Hainan due to food shortages, has become sought-after as a healthy and nutritious choice.
"We had to plant Shanlan rice in the old days because there wasn't enough to eat, but now we grow it to make a profit," said Zhang Wancheng, a farmer from Qingsong Village, Baisha Li Autonomous County, who shook off poverty by planting Shanlan rice in 2017.
This year, Zhang planted 2.3 hectares of Shanlan rice, with a yield of more than 1,500 kg worth nearly 40,000 yuan (about 5,680 U.S. dollars). "I never expected it would sell at such a high price," he said.
Compared with ordinary rice, Shanlan rice can grow well on dry hillsides, an adaptation to the geography of Qingsong Town that is embraced by deep mountains and once lacked arable land and irrigation facilities.
Shanlan rice remained a major crop in this area until the 1980s. With the water conservancy facilities improved, high-yielding rice was rapidly popularized in Hainan, replacing older varieties.
But as society develops, Chinese consumers have shifted from eating merely to fill their bellies to eating for good health, which has injected new vitality into this old rice strain.
"As a type of coarse grain, Shanlan rice is rich in protein, and we have kept planting it in a traditional way that needs less fertilizer," said Chen Libin, a local official.
Since 2015, Chen has been committed to promoting Shanlan rice through e-commerce and expanding its planting scale. "It has proved popular with the market, with orders inked from across the country," he said.
So far, there are about 127 hectares of Shanlan rice planted in Qingsong Village, compared with just 20 hectares four years ago.
"Shanlan rice tastes better than ordinary rice and is good for your health," said Wang Wenzhi, a tourist.
With the growing emphasis on healthy lifestyles, Shanlan rice has returned to locals' tables as a high-end staple food.
According to Yang Jinqi, a local farmer, Shanlan rice is usually sold at about 30 yuan per kg, five times the price of ordinary rice.
With better tilling methods and new types of Shanlan rice bearing fruit, the average output of Shanlan rice has increased from 5 kg per hectare to more than 7.3 kg per hectare, helping 87 impoverished households of Qingsong Village shake off poverty.
Now Qingsong Village alone can produce a total of 200,000 kg of Shanlan rice annually, but the supply still falls short of demand. "Sales have steadily increased and I want to continue expanding the planting area," said Yang.