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China: Around The Nation

University student uses forgotten spice to revitalise economy of Chinese village

Accounting graduate Zen Xiao defers offer from UK university for a year to continue seeking ways to alleviate rural poverty

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 5:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 5:39pm

A mainland university graduate has delayed her postgraduate studies after resurrecting a traditional farming business in a remote village in southern China, the Hangzhou Daily reports.

Zeng Xiao, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting four months ago from the University of Nottingham’s campus in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, discovered and began marketing a forgotten local spice called baogusuan in Molao village in Hunan province.

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After arriving in Molao village last September, Zeng and her companions identified baogusuan as a potentially profitable product that could benefit the village’s economy, even though villagers took the spice for granted and failed to see its value.

With two friends, Zeng launched a village enterprise to rebrand baogusuan, which is essentially made of cornstarch and red peppers. The trio repackaged the spice in stylish boxes that were sold to tourists and online shoppers.

Undeterred by the villagers’ lack of enthusiasm, the trio collected baogusuan from 10 families and sold it for 39 yuan a jar to tourists at nearby attractions.

The product immediately showed its appeal – more than 30 jars were sold, generating more than 1,000 yuan in revenue with its very first batch.

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The brand’s fame spread quickly and a few well-known TV hosts in China began promoting the product on their programmes. The village also received a 100,000 yuan (HK$113,000) state grant that allowed the villagers to build a factory to boost production.

Zeng was offered admission to the prestigious University of Warwick in the UK. But rather than head straight off to Britain, she deferred for a year to continue finding ways to relieve rural poverty in China.