Xinjiang farmers, firms make fortune from goji berries

Goji berry growers and processing companies in Jinghe County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, have embraced a bumper harvest this year, thanks to more goji derivative products.

On the production lines of Qirui Biotech Co., Ltd., packaged goji primary pulp are neatly arranged, with the aroma of goji berries filling the workshop.

After a few procedures such as washing, smashing, and filtering, fresh goji berries will be processed into packaged primary pulp and sold online and offline across the country.

Founded in 2019, Qirui Biotech has rapidly developed into one of the leading deep-processing enterprises of goji berries, also known as wolfberries, across the region. Juice, primary pulp, beer, enzymes, and other health care products made of goji berries are gaining popularity among consumers at home and abroad.

"In the past, many local goji processing enterprises only produced dried berries, with low prices," said Zhang Qin, general manager of Qirui. "At present, more companies are beginning to produce goji derivative products, which increases the added value of goji berries a lot."

Currently, Qirui has an annual production capacity of 800 tonnes of goji enzymes, 1,800 tonnes of primary pulp, 3,000 tonnes of juice, and 10,000 tonnes of beer, and has exported products to 30 countries and regions. In 2019, the company achieved sales of more than 25 million yuan (around 3.67 million U.S. dollars).

"We are now developing goji coffee," said Zhang. "We hope we can produce more derivative products of goji berries in the future."

China's goji berry history dates back thousands of years. In ancient herbal medicine, its functions included protecting the liver, improving eyesight, and conserving strength.

Jinghe County, known as the "hometown of the Chinese wolfberry," has a total planting area of over 8,600 hectares with an annual output of 260 million yuan. There are 13 goji processing companies, building 23 goji brands, and developing 14 derivative products.

Rich derivative products rely on high-quality goji berries. In recent years, Jinghe has made great efforts to help growers improve the quality of goji berries and increase their income.

The country has so far established 25 goji planting cooperatives to bring the scattered farming masses together and promote large-scale standardized planting. Those cooperatives are responsible for the supply of the means of production, the organization of technical services, and the marketing of output.

"Therefore, the processing companies are not worried about the quality of goji berries, and farmers are not worried about the market," said Li Jiangwei, a goji grower at Akqi Farm, a township in Jinghe.

In 2019, Li contracted a 40-hectare goji plantation, joined a local cooperative, and began with the green and standardized farming of goji berries.

"In the past, goji growers had a high yield but a low income due to the poor quality of goji berries. The sale prices were only about 10 yuan per kg," said Li. "But now we can sell 30 to 40 yuan per kg after we followed the standardized farming methods."

"Goji berries have sweetened us growers' lives," said Li.