Taiwan fruit farmer Lin Maosheng shows oranges he grows at his orchard in Luoyuan county, Fujian province, on Jan 25.[China Daily/Zhu Xingxin]
Taiwan fruit farmer overcomes odds to grow mainland business
LUOYUAN, Fujian: Other than the company of his two dogs, several chickens and geese at his simple bungalow, Taiwan fruit farmer Lin Maosheng will be spending this Spring Festival alone.
It will be the eighth time he is celebrating the Chinese New Year on the mainland in this way.
Lin, 66, left his wife, three sons and nine grandchildren in Taiwan. He has to look after what he said are more than 5,000 "mute sons" in his orchard in Luoyuan county, Fujian province.
"My fruit trees cannot talk, but they will tell me if they feel well by blossoming or bearing fruit," Lin said as he deftly used a band-aid on a new cut he suffered from pruning pear trees in the morning.
At the back of his house, early cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Yellow and red oranges weighed down branches, while nearby grapefruit had grown bigger than a man's fists.
Some fruit trees were also hanging empty.
"Those were eaten by the birds. Even they know my oranges are delicious," Lin said.
Indeed, Lin is famous for his produce. He holds a record for corn production and was selected as one of the "Top Ten Most Outstanding Farmers" in Taiwan in 1985.
Lin said he started growing fruit on the mainland in 2002 as he "was pestered beyond endurance" in his previous job in his hometown of Yongfeng village, Taichung county.
Lin acted as Yongfeng's village head for 10 years from 1992. But all his energy was taken up by village matters, such as sending wedding cards, arranging funerals or fixing street lamps for his residents.
"Elections are everything in Taiwan and I had to ingratiate myself with the voters, whether I liked it or not," Lin said.
But when the Chinese mainland approved the setting up of cross-Straits agricultural cooperation pilot projects in Fujian in 1997 and introduced a number of favorable policies, Lin decided to take the opportunity to try and get back the "simple happiness" of growing and harvesting.
As a pioneering region for cross-Straits cooperation, Fujian itself has attracted 2,177 Taiwan-invested agricultural programs since the early 1980s. Last year, trade volume between Fujian and Taiwan rocketed by 75 percent and a regional regulation was passed to encourage further cooperation.
Still, Lin faced a number of obstacles when he first started out on the mainland.
"I grew star fruit in 2002 but they did not last the year. I opted for Chinese green dates in 2003 and failed again in 2004," Lin said as he pruned pear trees that he planted after 2005.
"The guavas did ok during the first three years but they died in the abnormally cold spring of 2005."
Temperatures here are 6 to 8 C lower than that in Taichung and unsuitable for some varieties of Taiwan fruit. Based on trial and error, Lin finally found some of his best bets for the mainland, such as oranges, grapefruit, pears and lemon.
But the difficulties Lin faced went beyond the natural environment. In 2005 and 2006, he received several official documents from Taiwan warning him not to bring germ chits from the island to the mainland.
"That happened when Chen Shui-bian was in power. Now the Kuomintang is in office and encourages cross-Straits cooperation, so I don't have to worry about that anymore," Lin said.