NEWSLETTER - QINGSHAN-FARM – COMPLETE OVERVIEW SINCE 11/2019
- January 2024
The first on-site compost consultation by Ecocert took place at Qingshan in March 2023 when the first compost heap was created. The experts made various suggestions for improvement, including
- Shredding the grass/straw before composting.
- Increasing the amount of cattle manure used.
- Measuring the temperature of the pile more frequently, preferably daily, in several but always the same places.
- Packing the compost in bags after completion until being used as fertilizer.
In addition to the on-site appointment, the experts are also available by telephone if the farm has any problems or queries.
The second consultation meeting took place in November when the second compost heap was turned. Some of the suggestions for improvement could not yet be implemented. For example, the long, hard grass was still not shredded because the shredder was no longer functional. There are now plans to get a new shredder. Other measures have been implemented, such as packing the compost in bags after completion and measuring the temperature more frequently. Nevertheless, the farmers still lack detailed knowledge of when it is exactly the right time to turn the compost heap. This shows that professional compost advice is important and necessary.
- October 2022
Unfortunately, there was no possibility for our staff to visit the farm in 2021. The strict travel restrictions in China still apply, so it is unlikely that a visit will be possible in 2022 either.Read more ...
Certification, security, sustainability
In addition to the usual EU organic audit, there was again a Fairbiotea inspection by the organic control body CERES in 2021, which confirmed Qingshan's compliance with Fairbiotea requirements. The new farm in Guizhou - we reported - could not be visited by us either. Although Fairbiotea inspections continue to be carried out there, Fairbiotea has decided to accept this farm as a project member only after a personal inspection. Fairbiotea continues to buy tea from this farm, and we very much hope that the covid situation will slowly ease so that trips to China will be possible again.
The wages of the seasonal workers for the harvest in Qingshan are about 12.5 to 15 yuan per hour, depending on the job, which is about €1.78 to €2.14 according to the current exchange rate. In Hunan province, the statutory minimum wage was increased in 2022. In the district where Qingshan is located, it increased from 1380 yuan/month to 1550 yuan/month. At 15 yuan per hour and 8 working hours per day, seasonal workers are still quite a bit above the statutory minimum wage.
Compost production continues in the usual way in Qingshan. The last pile was built in October 2021. At the beginning of 2021, Qingshan had bought a new water vapour permeable tarp to cover the compost heap, as the old compost fleece, which Fairbiotea had procured for Qingshan at the end of 2014, already had too many damaged spots. At over 1,500 euros, the costs for this are not insubstantial for a small tea farm.
One problem in Qingshan is still the amount of compost produced, which is too small to supply the whole farm. The limiting factor here is the cow dung collected from the cattle kept on the farm. Efforts have been made to find external sources of additional cow dung. A first possible supplier has already been identified, a cattle farm about 110 kilometres away. The permanent procurement of all biomasses for a significant expansion of compost production is still a problem that is not being tackled vigorously enough. Fairbiotea is still looking for a consulting service to help with this. Such a consulting service now seems to be on the horizon.
- December 2020
Compost production has become firmly established in Qingshan. Most recently, in October 2020 a new compost pile was put up.Read more ...
This year, unfortunately, there was no possibility for our staff to visit Qingshan farm. The strict travel restrictions in China, especially for foreigners, made this impossible. Nevertheless, there was again a Fairbiotea inspection by the organic control body CERES this year, which confirmed the fulfillment of the Fairbiotea requirements on the part of Qingshan.
The three-year start-up funding to establish cattle breeding on the farm has now expired. The herd currently consists of 11 animals and thus stands firmly on its own feet. Unfortunately, 2 cows died this year, otherwise the herd would already consist of 13 animals. The support of the compost managers by Fairbiotea has also come to an end. Compost production is well installed and continues in the familiar way.
Certification, security, sustainability
The area of Qingshan farm, which was not large anyway, has decreased due to the loss of some parts that had to be used for other purposes. As previously reported, the third country control body started 2019 using Google maps to measure the actual cultivation area of a tea farm. In 2020, Qingshan farm has now also been re-measured in such a way. Many tea farms only calculate with the area information from the lease contracts and have no way to measure themselves the actual cultivation area that is planted with tea bushes. As can be expected, the re-measurement with Google results in smaller cultivation areas. For Qingshan, 40 hectares of pure cultivation area were measured and certified in the new 2020 organic certificate, down from 54 hectares in 2019. Unfortunately, there are no opportunities to increase the area of the Qingshan farm.
Fairbiotea has therefore been on the lookout for an additional farm of the same exporter, in order to initiate and support the development process towards more sustainability there, and to include the farm in Fairbiotea as well. We selected a farm in the province of Guizhou for this purpose. A Fairbiotea inspection by the organic control body has been carried out there already this year. The results are very positive, but Fairbiotea would still like to personally inspect the farm before accepting it as a new partner. Since this was not possible in 2020 due to Corona, Fairbiotea has postponed the decision on the inclusion of this farm to the coming year 2021. Nevertheless, we purchased already quite some tea from this farm in 2019 and 2020. We will report on the further developments in our "Actual" newsletter.
As reported in the 2019 newsletter, the management of Chenzhou Jietan had to realize that the building of the modern final processing factory in Yuanling was too large in scale and that total exports fell short of expectations. Two of the factory halls were already taken over by the county government in 2019, the last hall of the factory was then finally abandoned in 2020.
Since Fairbiotea plans to include another farm of the same exporter in the project, it suggested itself to have the teas of the two farms processed in the same factory, this is better also in terms of supplying equivalent tea qualities. From 2020 on, the teas from both farms will therefore be processed in a final processing factory in Guzhang. This factory has been certified organic continuously since 2005.
The compost from previous productions was spread on the tea fields as fertilizer in November. To the steep tea fields it usually has to be carried laboriously on the back. In total, Qingshan produces about 50 tons of compost per year.
- November 2019
The herd of cattle now includes 11 animals, 2 of which are bulls. Sufficient manure is produced for compost production.Read more ...
In 2018 as well, the wages for the compost managers and the cattle breeding have been paid by Fairbiotea.
Since the available area in Qingshan is limited, Fairbiotea is currently checking together with the producer whether an expansion is possible by converting other areas.
Certification, security, sustainability
Traceability will play an increasingly important role in the future. A very special way, namely the proof of origin by means of isotope and element analysis, is a unique research project, which is supported by Fairbiotea. The scientific foundation of this project is the fact that isotopes and elements contained in the soil and the rocks leave measurable signatures in plant material. If one compares these signatures with comparative data from soil and rock samples, it can be said with considerable accuracy whether a plant has grown at that place or not. This also applies to dried tea leaves.
In 2018 Fairbiotea accompanied a scientist to three of our farms to draw first samples of soil, rock and tea leaves. In Qingshan such a sampling took place in several of the farm sections.
During this year’s inspection Fairbiotea visited besides the farm also the processing factory of Qingshan’s jasmine tea. It is located in China’s largest jasmine growing area in Heng county, Guangxi province. Read more about it in our description of the production process of jasmine tea and in the 2019 newsletter in the archive on our Actual page.
In 2019, the management of Chenzhou Jietan company realized that the construction of the modern final processing plant in Yuanling was a little too large-scaled and that total export revenues fell short of expectations. Low profits due to persistently low export prices remain a problem for China's tea industry. Two of the three new factory buildings have been emptied completely already and are being rented out to other companies, the last remaining factory hall was still in operation in 2019, but is planned to be sold also. Sencha production will be dropped. The proposed new office building likewise will not be realized. In the future the final processing of the Qingshan teas will be carried out in a factory near the city of Changsha.