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Provincial profiles of tea in China: Jiangxi and Guangxi provinces.

Jiangxi is a land-locked province located in eastern China. In 1915 output in the province, a traditional tea-growing area in China, was 16,500 tons, a figure only surpassed in 1987. By 1949 tea production had plummeted to only 2,145 tons. By 1958 output had increased to 5,000 tons, doubling to 11,700 tons in 1981. Output in 1990 stood at 19,400 tons from 58,000 ha of tea fields, making Jiangxi one of the small to medium-sized tea producing provinces of China.

In the decade from 1979 to 1989 output increased at an annual average of 7.3%, above the national average of 6.4%. Area declined slightly over this period, and so yields increased by an impressive 7.7% per annum, above the national average of 6.3%. Nevertheless, total yields in Jiangxi are extremely low at only 331 kg/ha, well below the national average of 502 kg/ha. Plucked yields at 442 kg/ha in 1989 were also well below the national average of 651 kg/ha.

Tea is grown on the hills and slopes in the north-east and in the Xiushui river basin of the province. Wuyuan district contributes 30% of provincial output, then the seven cities and counties of Xiushui, Jingdezhen, Shangrao, Fengcheng, Wuning and Quanshan make up 64%. Spring tea contributes 60% of annual output, with green, black and old green (qinqcha) the main varieties. Green tea comprises about 75% of provincial output.

Black tea from Jingdezhen is called Fu black, and together with Qimen black from Anhui province is known on the international market as Qi black. Exports comprise 40% to 60% of Jiangxi's annual output, and Jasmine tea is the principal variety produced for the domestic market. Jiangxi was allowed to undertake its own export business in 1980, and began exporting Wu green tea in 1987.

It is alleged that production costs for tea in Jiangxi rose by 65% in 1986, the biggest rise for any agricultural commodity in the province. A survey of the relative returns on various agricultural crops in Jiangxi for 1986 revealed that tea was one of the least profitable crops to grow, bringing in a lower return than rice, cotton, hemp, tobacco, peanuts and fruits.

A survey of returns for various agricultural crops in Jiangxi province in 1987 came up with the following results.
Table 1. Returns on Various Agricultural Crops
in 1987, Jiangxi Province.

 Net Return % increase/
 post tax net return: cost % decrease

Crop 1987 1984 1987 1987:1984

Early rice 41.6 46.68 42.32 -4.36
Rapeseed -7.09 52.24 -12.04 -66.28
Peanuts(*) 100.58 65.85 105.45 39.64
Cotton 121.52 53.75 55.55 1.8
Ramie(*) 189.05 83.71 65.91 -17.8
Sugar cane 257.7 101.21 112.18 10.97
Tangerines(*) 2030.21 181.00 332.50 105.5
Qi crude
black tea 66.59 64.96 40.38 120.58

Legend:(*) Prices decontrolled: unit = yuan/mu.

Source: Cao Zehua, Wang Xiaodong and Hu Ping, "Investigation and
research into ten years' price reform for agricultural
commodities in Jiangxi province",
Prices Monthly, No. 12, 1988, p. 20.

From the table, we can see that the net return on Qi crude black tea fell by 20% over the three years surveyed, a period which encompassed the period of market reform and price liberalization. Thus, in 1987 black tea was the second least profitable crop after rapeseed, and its relative position had deteriorated second only to that crop in the period surveyed.

Jiangxi is another province which is experiencing trouble in developing its tea industry due to the micro-scale and scattered land management now in force since the dissolution of the agricultural collectives. It also has to solve the problem of the competition for land, fertilizer and labor power which arises each year between tea and grain crops.

Guangxi Province

In the 15 years between 1915 and 1929, the southern Chinese province of Guangxi (its current correct title is the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, so-called because of the high number of Zhuang nationality who live there) exported 15,000 tons of tea. Output in 1949 had fallen to a mere 850 tons, but by 1970 it had recovered to over 4,000 tons, doubling to 8,425 tons by 1981. In 1990 provincial output was 16,410 tons from an area of 23,600 ha, making Guangxi like Jiangxi above, one of the small to medium tea producing provinces of China. It was only in 1989 that provincial output surpassed the historic high of 15,000 tons. In the decade 1979 to 1989 output increased at an annual rate of 8% on a falling tea-growing area, so that yields rose by an average of almost 10%, well above the national average.

Total yields in 1989 were 698 kg/ha, again well above the national average of of 502 kg/ha. This was a marked improvement on the situation in 1979 when total yields were just below the national average. Yields on plucked fields stood at 943 kg/ha in the same year, compared to the national average of 651 kg/ha. Thus, Guangxi's success in raising yields dramatically in a short period demonstrates that with the correct set of policies in place China has the potential to bring national yields up to international levels.

Natural conditions in the province are conducive to the growing of tea with a total of eight to nine plucking seasons per year, several more than in the Yangtze river area. Tea is now grown in more than 70 counties, but is concentrated in six. Tea area and output in southern Guangxi comprises 68% and 62% respectively of provincial total. North-east Guangxi contributes 19% and 18% of area and output respectively, while the western districts make up 13% and 20% of area and output respectively.

The south of Guangxi is favorable for growing broken black from the Yunnan large leaf tea bush and the Lingyun large leaf variety. The area north of the famous tourist city of Guilin is suitable for growing green tea, using Fuding, Jikeng, Zhu and Fuan large white varieties. Broken black and roasted green can also be grown in central and eastern Guangxi, using Guibei large leaf, Lingyun large leaf and Yunnan large leaf. In 1984 the area planted to large leaf varieties comprised almost one half of the tea fields of the province, and the output of large leaf broken black made up 20% of the national total of this highly-valued variety.

Since the mid 1980's, various issues of the Guangxi Economic Yearbook and its successor, the Guangxi Yearbook, have carried brief surveys of the achievements and problems of the industry in the province. Reference has been made to policies implemented in 1985 to encourage the production of tea, and the steps taken to contract gardens on state farms to households, the importation and imitation of foreign technology, and the expansion of the production of Jasmine tea and famous teas such as the prized Liubao compressed tea. Other subjects canvassed in the annual surveys include the establishment of production bases for the export of broken black tea, the link-up of processing facilities, and the development of tea production as a means of throwing off poverty.

In 1986 the central and local governments decided to invest 4 million yen, each over three years to establish export bases for broken Black tea in five counties of the region. Renovation and expansion of tea fields was commenced in that year, and continued in 1987. Output of broken Black in the five counties makes up over one-half of provincial production of this tea variety. In 1990 the Ministry of Agriculture designated Guangxi, along with six other provinces, as key broken Black and fine quality Black tea production areas.

On the question of scented teas, in 1989 the Ministry of Commerce convened a conference which made an in-principle decision to shift scented tea production from Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong provinces to Guangxi, because of better climactic conditions for growing Jasmine and magnolias in the latter province. Whether the provinces which presently process scented tea, which is supplied principally to the domestic market, are prepared to give up production of the most profitable tea variety in China is another matter, however.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Author:Forster, Keith
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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