China’s northwestern Shaanxi province, known for apples and kiwis, has overtaken eastern Shandong province to become the country’s biggest fruit production base in terms of both acreage and output. In 2012, the fruit growing area in Shaanxi stands at 1.17 million ha with the estimated output of 15 million tons, according to the provincial fruit industry administration. Last year, its fruit production area stood at 1.14 million ha with the output of 14.2 million tons.

Shaanxi started to lead China’s fruit production in 2011 and it is expected to consolidate its leading place this year, said the administration. As China’s largest apple production base, Shaanxi’s apple production volume will account for nearly 30% of the country’s estimated total supply of 35 million tons in 2012, according to the administration. The province plants 680,000 ha of apple trees with an estimated output of 10.2 million tons this year.

Last year, the apple growing area in Shaanxi stood at 640,000 ha with the output of 9.6 million tons, both accounting for around one fourth of the country’s total. Shaanxi is also the biggest kiwi fruit grower in the country. Its planting area of kiwi fruit stands at 68,000 ha with an estimated output of 840,000 tons in 2012.

Last year, the planting area of kiwi fruit stood at 60,600 ha with the output of 700,000 tons. The administration cannot provide final figures for this year’s fruit production for the moment. It has detailed figures for 2011 and exact figures for planting areas in 2012. On top of apples and kiwis, Shaanxi has around 166,667 ha of Chinese red dates, 35,333 ha of oranges and a variety of other fruits.

The climate types of Shaanxi, an inland province that is vertically longer, range from temperate continental, temperate monsoon to subtropical, making it naturally suitable for different fruit plantations. The province rose to China’s leading fruit base thanks to its fast-increasing fruit storage facility and the apple juice industry. Shaanxi has built storage facility for 3 million tons of fresh fruits, or nearly one fifth of its fruit production. The fruit grower thus is able to keep fresh its products for a longer period and avoid big price drops in the harvest seasons.

Shaanxi has developed condensed apple juice industry. It now has the capacity to process 3 million tons of apples and turn out 800,000 tons of condensed apple juice each year. The condensed apple juice are mainly exported and sold to global soft drink companies to process to the apple juice. Last year, Shaanxi exported 265,600 tons of condensed apple juice, with a turnover of US$462 million. Its export to countries such as the United States, Germany, Japan, Russia and Canada accounted for about 40% of the global trade for condensed apple juice, said the administration.

Shaanxi is eager to tap the global market. Its fresh fruit export volume, standing at 521,300 tons in 2011, accounted for only 3.7% of its total production. Amid fiercer competition after the global financial crisis, Shaanxi is developing organic apple sector to enhance its competitiveness. About 16,667 ha of apple growing areas in the province have been certified by EU certification bodies to be under organic cultivation. The fruit industry in Shaanxi is facing the challenge of decreasing soil fertility. The average soil organic matter content level is less than 1%, much lower than the 2.5% to 4% level in the European countries, according to the provincial fruit industry administration.

The administration is helping farmers increase the soil fertility by promoting the use of wheat straw and corn straw as fertilizer. It provides subsidy on purchasing straw shredders, and gives training to farmers on how to prepare organic fertilizer.

Source: FruitWorld Feb 2013

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