URUMQI, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- As China's most prestigious Fuji apple producer, Aksu Prefecture in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is good at using its apples, an unrivaled best-seller, to fight poverty.
"The secret to Aksu apples and their popularity is that farmers in the region grow apples rich in sugars," said Li Zhihua, a local fruit-farmer. "Moreover, our apples can be very large, averaging 75 mm in diameter."
Li has contracted about 2 hectares of Fuji apple trees, bringing him a stable annual income of nearly 1 million yuan (about 130,000 U.S. dollars).
"Seven years ago, I earned only one-ninth of my current income before I ran the orchard," Li said, adding that chemical fertilizers are strictly forbidden in his farmland. He uses goat manure and other bio-fertilizers instead.
The contract system, having benefited thousands of farmers in Aksu, was introduced via a 2017 aid program initiated by east China's Zhejiang Province to help sell Aksu's Fuji apples in more cities in the province.
Zhejiang has helped Aksu build a sophisticated sales network, bringing in a total sales revenue of more than 1.4 billion yuan and benefiting over 20,000 poverty-stricken farmers in the prefecture.
"Zhejiang has become a strong buyer of our apples," said Mou Zongbao with an Aksu-based industrial association. "The program helps us find quality warehousing and logistics services with its strong consumer market."
According to local authorities, fruit sales in Aksu account for over one-third of the region's per capita income, and Fuji apples accounted for nearly 70 percent of China's 43 million tonnes of apples grown in 2016 and 2017.
"Our fruits as well as many other agricultural products are very popular in the market, but the connection between the growers and the markets used to be weak," Mou said. "The program has helped us to solve the problem."
Moreover, farmers have begun to sell their produce online, a further boost to sales.
During last year's online shopping bonanza on Nov. 11, over 850,000 kg of Aksu's Fuji apples were sold on Tmall, Alibaba's e-commerce platform, reaching over 100,000 customers.
"Fuji apples in Aksu contain about 10 percent sugars and have a dense flesh that is sweeter and crisper than many other apple species," said He Zhangping, manager of an Aksu-based agricultural producer.
"Although Aksu apples are quite famous in China, we still expect that the apples can be sold in more foreign markets," He said.