Berry delicious Xianju fruit finds favor abroad

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-07-06

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HANGZHOU-Selling for up to 60 yuan ($9) apiece this year, 500 kilograms of waxberries recently left Xianju, a mountainous county in Zhejiang province, and arrived in supermarkets and luxury hotels in Dubai, bringing with them the fresh taste of summer. 

"Waxberries don't last long, so to keep them as fresh as possible, we pick them up at 3 am before putting them in cold storage for precooling," said Wu Jiazhen, head of the Xiandai Agricultural Development in Xianju.

"We seal the berries, put them in boxes and send the fruit to the airport by refrigerated truck," Wu said.

Customs in Taizhou, which administers Xianju, sampled the fruit before they were picked up, conducting lab tests for agricultural residue to ensure their quality and safety. "On picking day, we also check the appearance and quality of the fruit, and speed up inspection and quarantine procedures," said Chen Ye, an official with Taizhou Customs.

Grown in Xianju for over 1,000 years, the juicy, sweet waxberries can weigh up to 40 grams and reach the size of a ping-pong ball. They have become all the rage in China and abroad in recent years.

Between 2019 and 2021, nearly 30 metric tons were exported to countries including the United States, France, Germany, Singapore, Canada and the Netherlands. "The export price this year has reached between 10 and 60 yuan per berry. The cause of these higher prices is mainly expensive transportation fees and decreased production due to climate reasons," Wu said.

Xianju is home to 100,000 growers and some 50 villages dedicated to planting the fruit. Some 94 square kilometers of the county are given over to waxberries, and it produced 100,000 tons of fruit worth over 1 billion yuan last year. Average incomes for Xianju's waxberry growers have grown by 32,000 yuan since the previous season.

Zhu Shuixing, an agronomist with the Agriculture and Rural Bureau in Xianju, attributed the prosperity of the sweet business to the development of storage and transportation technology.

"With the support of research institutes, Xianju waxberry production has adopted a series of preservation techniques like vacuum packaging, nitrogen packaging and cold chain transportation," Zhu said. "In normal summer temperatures, waxberries can be kept for only one to two days, but with digital pulsed magnetic field technology, they can be kept for as long as 30 days."