Areca brings opportunities to tropical city

Workers in Yali Agricultural Development Company pack areca nuts in Wanning, South China’s Hainan province on Nov 24, 2018. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Wang Xiaoli is shelling arecas in a workshop in Yali Agricultural Development Company, an enterprise specializing in areca processing. Each day, a proficient worker like her can shell at least 40 kg of areca nuts.

Areca, also known as binglang, is a kind of plant mainly grown in tropical forests from China and India to across Southeast Asia to Melanesia. But many don’t know there is a small city, Wanning, in South China’s Hainan province called “the home of areca”.

Chinese call areca “binglang” as “bin” and “lang” meant honorable guests in ancient Chinese language. Chewing areca nuts is a habit of people in Southeast Asia and Hunan, Hainan, Yunnan and some tropical areas in China. Also, it can be used as medicine.

The areca culture in Wanning is profound, according to Yang Zhibin, minister of publicity of Wanning. “As early as the Song Dynasty (960-1279), people in the city began to grow areca. The custom and culture of the people here to eat areca nut has passed down for a long time. It’s regarded as a symbol of friendship and a token of love between young men and women. When we visit our relatives on festivals, we always bring areca nuts as gift.”

In Hainan, nearly 2.3 million farmers grow areca trees, according to official statistics.

Data show that in 2017, the area of areca exceeded 104,667 hectares, with an output value over 35 billion yuan. And Wanning accounted for one-third of the total output in the province.

Areca has spurred the local economy and created job opportunities for thousands of people.

Yali Agricultural Development Company employs more than 500 workers, among which over 40 come from impoverished households. They earn an average salary of 3,000 yuan ($432) each month. It is estimated 200 more will be hired in 2019.

“We will continue to ramp up our support to make the areca industry and make it a sustainable industry for local people to increase their income and thrive,” Yang Zhibin said.

Next year, Yali plans to export products to countries such as Russia, India and Burma. “We hope to introduce Hainan’s areca culture to all over the world someday,” said Cai Qiongling, an administrative worker in Yali.

Areca nuts. [Photo/IC]