Growing hemp in Yunnan

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
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Trip End Dec 31, 2011


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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

OFFICIALS in southwest China's Yunnan Province are promoting the cultivation of hemp for industrial use to increase the income of local residents.

A hemp fiber processing factory with an annual capacity of 2,000 tonnes began production yesterday in Menghai County in Dai Autonomous Prefecture of Xishuangbanna, a mountainous region in Yunnan.

"The fiber from hemp is widely used to make socks and bulletproof clothes as well as top-grade suits," said Shi Dongming, board chairman of China Hemp Industrial Holding Investment Co Ltd, which runs the production line.

Local officials expect the plant to help raise the living standard of farmers.

The government provides the seeds for free to encourage cultivation. Farmers can also get technical training and instruction.

"Nearly 10,000 farmers are growing the plant, which can double their per capita income from less than 2,000 yuan (US$293) to about 4,000 yuan every year," said Jiang Pusheng, Communist Party chief of the prefecture.

Yang Yonghong from Manlu Village plans to plant more hemp next year. "The planting does not demand too much work. Companies will come to collect the hemp in the harvest time, so we are not worried about sales," she said.

Local officials said the growth would not lead to the production of illegal drugs, although Xishuangbanna is near the Golden Triangle region where drugs are produced and smuggled.

The hemp contains less than 0.1 percent of THC, the key ingredient in marijuana, while the cannabis grown for marijuana can contain up to 5 percent of THC or even more, said Zhang Jianchun, a researcher with the General Logistics Department of the People's Liberation Army.

He has been working on the development and cultivation of the hemp since 2003.

"The cost of making marijuana from our hemp is much higher than the price of the drugs," Zhang said, "So we don't think drug producers will target the farms here."

By 2020, China will build cultivation bases in the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia as well as Yunnan, Heilongjiang, Gansu and Anhui provinces, Zhang said. The project is expected to help lift about 3 million people out of poverty, he said.
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