Modern agriculture improves lives and livelihoods in Tibet

By Li Xiaoyang

XIHAZE: Till two years ago, Tenzin was a struggling farmer in Lungsang, a village in the city of Xigaze in Tibet Autonomous Region, southwest China. Lying at an average altitude of 4,000 meters, with long sunshine hours and fertile soil, the area is one of the region’s major producers of highland barley. However, the crop had never brought the 75-year-old farmer any sizeable profit in his decades of farming.
His family used it mostly to make tsampa, the traditional Tibetan staple food of roasted barley flour, and sold the rest. Selling was even harder than farming. Tenzin had to rent a truck to take the barley to nearby towns to sell it but would get only a little cash and sometimes, not even that but just sheepskin in barter.
Then in 2016, a private company started up in the neighborhood. Tibet Deqin Sunshine Manor, seeing the potential in highland barley, which is rich in minerals and, among all kinds of wheat, has the highest beta-glucan—sugar content that improves the immunosystem—began to develop diverse barley products such as flour, noodles, biscuits and meal replacement powder, which appeal to non-Tibetan palates as well.
“Our company is now the largest highland barley food processor in Tibet,” Luo Hujie, director of the company’s food factory, told Beijing Review.
“To expand the market, we are working with research institutions such as the Tibet Academy of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Sciences.”
Last year, the company’s total sales through e-commerce platforms and offline stores amounted to over 20 million yuan ($2.9 million).
Tibet Deqin Sunshine Manor signed contracts with farmers around Xigaze to buy their barley.
In 2019, it purchased more than 3,000 tons of barley from them. Tenzin is among the sellers. He started selling his barley to the new company in 2018 in a win-win deal. The company sends trucks to the farmers to collect the grain while the local government gives them free fertilizer.
In the past two years, Tenzin sold nearly 40 tons to the company at a price higher than the market price, making a total income of nearly 190,000 yuan ($27,566), which is an unprecedented windfall.
– The Daily Mail Beijing Review News exchange item