HOHHOT, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Cultivation of millet in north China's Inner Mongolia has increased since archaeologists claimed the grain originated there.
In the Aohan Banner of Chifeng city, 60,000 hectares are under millet, about four percent of the national crop, said Qiu Wenbo, Party chief of the banner.
Carbonized millet grains were found in Aohan in the early 2000s, said Zhao Zhijun with the Institute of Archaeology in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). The discovery suggested that millet had become staple food for people in Aohan about 8,000 years ago.
According to Liu Guoxiang, an archaeologist with CASS and head of Aohan research base, millet then spread across north China, and westward, as far as Europe.
In 2012, the Aohan dryland farming system was listed among Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
In 2014, Aohan was recognized as China's "hometown of millet" by the Chinese Food Industry Association.
The archaeological insight called attention to farming in the Banner, where one fifth of the farmland was devoted to growing millet.
Sun Zongmin from the Reshuitang village has one hectare of land, half of which is used to grow millet.
"Our yield is at least 3.3 tonnes," he said with a smile. "It could reach 4.5 tonnes at the most. Millet alone can bring us an annual income of 10,000 to 20,000 yuan."
Millet from Aohan is expensive. Qiu told Xinhua that highest price of one kilogram of millet from Aohan was 96 yuan. "It was planted in the traditional way, with no chemical fertilizers and pesticides," he said.
On Taobao, one of China's biggest online marketplaces, the brand "Eight Thousand Millet" sells for between 15 and 30 yuan per kilogram, as compared to six or seven yuan for non-organic millet.
Aohan millet featured at the 2015 World Expo in Milan.
Almost 70,000 hectares of millet will be growing in Aohan by 2020, with output exceeding 225,000 tonnes, said Qiu Wenbo.
"It is our hope that our millet, like silk, ceramics and tea, could become a symbol of Eastern culture for people across the world," he said.