Bamboo shoot processing allows Hunan villagers enjoy a better life

Bamboo shoots, after being dehydrated, are poured into a soaking pool. “At present, the order is urgent, and there’s no time to lose for production,” said a local villager from Taojiang county, Yiyang city, central China’s Hunan province.

He Zhen checks the warehouse in his factory. (File photo)

In 2017, the villager named He Zhen and his father, He Jianan, began to set up a bamboo shoot processing factory in the village, mainly dealing with bamboo shoot food. Relying on two physical stores and two online stores, the products have been sold across the country.

Yiyang is a famous bamboo producing area in Hunan. However, after graduating from school in 2003, He did not continue to make a living from bamboo. Packing his bags, he went to become a migrate worker in Dongguan, south China’s Guangdong province.

With no skills, he could only be a worker for an assembly line at a factory. “No matter how flexible my hands and feet are when it comes to dealing with bamboo, when it comes to a machine, I am quite clumsy,” recalled He.

After working for more than a year, although He did not make much progress in his work, he found a big business opportunity: there are a large number of migrant workers in Guangdong, therefore, a lot of disposable tableware has to be consumed every day.

He thought: “There is a lot of bamboo in my hometown, so why not go back and produce disposable bamboo chopsticks?”

Back in his hometown, He managed to buy machines and finally set up a bamboo chopstick processing workshop, but before the excitement of starting a business was over, the operation of the workshop was rather difficult.

For He, the quality of raw materials could not be guaranteed, and there was great pressure on the production and operation of bamboo chopsticks. With the accumulation of financial losses, He had no choice but to transfer the possession of the workshop to others.

Afterwards, He applied for the position of warehouse supervisor in a shoe factory. After five years, because of his hard work, He rose steadily in the management level of the factory.

Once at home, He and his family chatted and talked about starting a new business. While his mother directly opposed to the idea and his wife did not take sides, his father, who was over 50, was quite supportive.

In recent years, He’s father worked as a cook in his hometown and found that there was a great demand for frozen food, which was a rare business opportunity.

In 2011, He emptied his savings, bought equipment, built a refrigeration facility and started the frozen food business. In order to avoid failure this time, He remembered a word often mentioned before working in a factory–differentiation.

He decided to target the rural wine and banquet market, specializing in the direct supply of frozen food. In his supply of frozen food, “delicacy from the mountain” was indispensable. Of course, bamboo shoots are the perfect fit for his business.

In 2019, according to the policy on the development of the bamboo industry in Taojiang county, He received 1 million yuan (about $148,600) of industrial development funds, and the village planned to also invest in his company 500,000 yuan used for collective economic development.

Last year, the company processed a total of 925 tonnes of bamboo shoots and achieved sales of 5.1 million yuan. After working in the bamboo shoot processing plant, 10 poor villagers have been lifted out of poverty, and 14 poor villagers have become rich by contracting bamboo shoot bases.

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