Sweet cherries make life sweeter in quake-hit county


Resting under a large cherry tree, 53-year-old Wang Qiongying, in Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of southwest China's Sichuan Province, is content that she now can stay at home and take care of two grandsons, rather than going out to work.

Using WeChat, Wang's daughter sold over 100 kg of cherries over the past weekend, and during the whole cherry harvest season, usually between mid-May and June, the little red fruits can bring the family over 100,000 yuan (14,477 U.S. dollars).

The sweet life did not come easy. Twenty-three years ago, Wang's family was the second in the village in Wenchuan county to work outside. "We used to plant corn and radish back then but ended with little income, there was no hope living at home," Wang said. By 2008, over a third of the population in the village were migrant workers.

A powerful earthquake rocked Wenchuan the same year, leaving the land under tremendous trauma. To rebuild the land, local government found cherries as the new cash cow.

Wenchuan's alkaline soil, high altitude, long hours of sunshine and large temperature differences are just perfect to produce sweet, beautiful cherries. The sugar content in Wenchuan cherries can be up to 26 percent and soon won the heart of gourmets across the country.

"Those who grew cherries early had seen their annual income doubled in just three to four years," said Li Guowen, an official in Wenchuan's Zhouda village. "Now the total cherry plant area has reached almost 53 hectares in our village alone, and helped increase the annual income of each household by 10 times already," Zhou said.

Wang's family was drawn back by the profitable fruit six years ago. When their cherry trees began to bear fruit in 2017, their life got better.

On the opening day of this year's Wenchuan cherry festival, which falls on May 11, almost 3,000 tourists came to purchase cherries. More than 35,000 kg of fresh cherries were sold through various channels on that day, bringing in a total revenue of over 2 million yuan.

Thanks to advanced logistics, the cherries born in deep mountains can reach customers in first-tier cities within 24 hours and 48 hours in second-tier cities. Logistics firm SF Express this year even set up 40 delivery points and dispatched almost 200 employees to Wenchuan in response to soaring nationwide orders.

"We can send away up to 20,000 cartons of cherries a day," said a courier surnamed Guo who was busy packing.

Along with cherries, a string of tourism activities, including homestays featuring catering as well as cherry picking have been rolled out to lure visitors.

By the end of 2018, the cherry plant area in Wenchuan had surpassed 1,800 hectares, yielding 11.5 million kg of cherries with an output value of 345 million yuan. The average household income in Wenchuan was over 50,000 yuan.