Chinese garlic growers clash with officials as crops dug up

Authorities in southwestern county ordered all plants to be removed in bid to prevent nearby lake being polluted by fertiliser

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 9:08pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2018, 9:08pm

Villagers in southwest China clashed with officials on Sunday in a dispute over their right to grow garlic on a plot of land where, according to local authorities, the over use of fertiliser had polluted a local lake.

The argument began in August when growers in Eryuan county, Yunnan province, were told they would no longer be able to use the site for planting, but would be compensated for their losses, Chinese news portal Thepaper.cn reported.

According to a government notice issued on August 28, households would be paid 1,200 yuan (US$175) for each mu (7,200 square feet) of garlic they had already cultivated, and 600 yuan for each mu they were planning to use but had not yet planted.

Farmers, however, said they had been growing garlic in the area for nearly two decades and that the compensation was insufficient.

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Officials on Saturday warned locals they would start pulling up the garlic plants the following day, but tempers flared in the town of Sanying when they arrived at the site with excavators and weeding machines.

Videos of the clash were widely shared online, and a county official was reportedly injured during a scuffle.

The ban on garlic growing was imposed in 16 towns in Eryuan as part of the local government’s efforts to protect Erhai Lake, a local tourist attraction.

Garlic cultivation often involves the use of large amounts of fertiliser and pesticide, which were found to be the main pollutants in the lake, which lies downstream from Eryuan.

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In a report by The Beijing News, a famer named Yang was quoted as saying he had already planted his garlic crop by the time the government asked him not to.

“Garlic is where our income mainly comes from. We’ve done this for decades,” he said. “It costs us 3,500 yuan per mu per year to plant garlic, so the government’s compensation doesn’t even cover that.”

The Eryuan government said that more than 14,000 families had signed agreements not to plant garlic any more, and that 5,000 mu of land had already been cleared.

Before the excavators moved in, Sanying was home to more than 20,000 mu of garlic fields, the newspaper report said.