Booming Industries of Yunnan
Yunnan is famous for its tobacco industry. In 1987, when China National Tobacco Company announced 25top cigarette brand names for the tobacco sector, seven brands produced in Yunnan were included in the list. Tobacco growing and cigarette making have become pillar industries of the province's economy. More than 100 cigarette factories throughout China rely on Yunnan for the supply of tobacco leaves.
"Hongtashan," one of the best known brands of cigarette in Yunnan, is now regarded as the best value of all Chinese brands and has become a nationally famous trade mark. The tobacco leaves, from which Hongtashan cigarettes are made, are carefully grown by Yunnan farmers using special techniques. Yunnan has been growing tobacco leaves for around 800 years. Those grown in the south part of the province are of superior quality with plump leaves and deep golden color. They are flexible and have a moderate alkaline content, high sugar content and a rich fragrance. Yuxi Cigarette Factory is a leading enterprise in the Chinese tobacco industry and the largest cigarette producer in Asia. It is equipped with the most advanced cigarette making machinery and technology in the world. The merger of Yunnan Hongta (Group) Company, founded in 1995,and Yuxi Cigarette Factory last year marked a new era for this group to begin its trans-industrial and trans-regional business operations. The Yunnan Hongta Company Ltd, now a shareholding company, is a powerful enterprise. Its most famous brand name, "Hongtashan," was valued at 38.6 billion yuan by a Beijing-based property appraisal firm in 1998.
Recent statistics show that the flue-cured tobacco leaves prepared in Yunnan account for one third of the country's total, while cigarettes account for one fifth. The tax and profits of Yunnan's tobacco industry is approximately half of the total for the whole sector in China. In 1997, the tobacco industry in Yunnan produced taxes and profits worth 37.8 billion yuan,100 times more than that of 10 years ago. Yunnan's tobacco industry ranks first, not only in the output of flue-cured tobacco leaves and cigarette making, but also in technology, equipment, profits and sales throughout China. It is a strong pillar industry of Yunnan's economic development.
Yunnan is an ideal place for growing tea trees. On entering the Tea Research Institute of Yunnan Province, located in Menghai County in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, you feel you are entering a tea museum. There are 749 species of tea trees belonging to 15 genera in the world, of which China has398.Yunnan is home to270species which are distributed over120 counties and cities throughout the province. Among the finest varieties, Pu'er tea, one of the big-leaf species is a special variety because of its high content of active ingredients and its strong, sweet flavor.
Many ancient tea trees are still growing in Yunnan. One such tree has been growing for about 800 years according to scientists. It still lives on the Nannuo Mountain in Menghai County. It is called by local residents the " king of tea trees." Another wild tea tree, 1,700 years old, was also found on the county's Dahei Mountain. This tea tree, which is 32.12 meters tall, is still covered with exuberant foliage and produces high quality tea. Just recently, an even larger tea tree was found in the province. The tree is 34 meters tall and 3.8 meters in circumference at its base. It is believed to be the largest wild tea tree in the world.
Tea drinking customs differ from one ethnic group to another in Yunnan. For example, people living in the cold northwest of the province like to drink butter tea and chicken fat tea, while those residing in the hot southwestern section are fond of sour tea or drinking tea from bamboo tubes. Drinking toasted tea is the custom of the people living in the mountainous areas in southern Yunnan. The Bai ethnic group in Dali has a long-standing tradition of drinking "three-courses tea". The taste of the first course is bitter, the second sweet and finally mellow, rich taste.
The two largest tea producing centers are Fengqing and Menghai counties, where green tea, black tea and pressed tea are grown and processed. Yunnan black tea is a high quality tea, and one of China's important exports. The famous Pu'er tea and Xiaguan-brand Tuo tea are green teas. Xiaguan Tuo tea, mainly produced in Dali, is made in the form of a ball. It is widely favored for its pleasant flavor and color, and exported to more than 20 countries.
Yunnan's flatlands, river valleys and hills, mostly around 1,400 metres above sea level, are suitable for growing sugarcane with plenty of sunshine and wide variations in temperature between daytime and night time. Yunnan has a long history of growing sugarcane. The brown sugars produced in Zhuyuan, Panxi, Yongsheng and Qiaojia regions are very popular. Yunnan is one of the leading sugar producing provinces in China.Its sugar output ranks third among all the provinces. At present, land for growing sugarcane covers over 6 million mu, while a further 3 million mu is being prepared to extend the crops.
Yunnan was the first place in China to grow rubber trees. As early as 1904, a tribal headsman in Dehong prefecture imported 3,000 saplings of rubber trees from abroad and planted them in the Fenghuang Mountain area. Large scale planting of rubber trees began in the early 1950s. Now rubber trees have been successfully transplanted to areas at latitude 21°-25°N and with altitude of 100-1,000 metres above sea level. The yield per unit area is the highest in China. The rubber
industry in Yunnan now has a wealth of experience to call on.
Because of its varied climatic conditions, Yunnan is an ideal place for growing many different fruit trees throughout the year. More than 130 varieties of fruit grow in the province, putting Yunnan first in fruit growing among all the provinces. Now fruit production is on a large scale and is very profitable. Fruits of many varieties are available all year round in Yunnan and are sent to markets in many other provinces in China.