CHONGQING, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Washing, sorting and dehydrating -- several robotic arms are busy processing pickled mustard tubers at a workshop of Chongqing Fuling Zhacai Group Co., Ltd. in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
The history of pickle-making in Chongqing's Fuling, a major pickle production base, dates back more than 150 years. The district's traditional method of producing preserved mustard tubers was listed as a state-level intangible cultural heritage in 2008.
During these years, the region's unique pickled mustard tubers, which used to be a luxurious snack at the beginning of the 20th century, have been served on many Chinese people's dinner tables and even shipped to overseas markets.
Now, the pickles have been exported to over 60 countries, among which Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are the big markets, according to Zhang Xiaoming, the foreign trade manager of Chongqing Fuling Zhacai Group Co., Ltd.
Zhang added that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, their export volume is still growing. In the first quarter of this year, the company generated an export value of over 18 million yuan (about 2.7 million U.S. dollars), up 28.5 percent from a year earlier.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, the world's biggest free trade pact that took effect this year, has also given a boost to pickle export to Japan, ROK, and Southeast Asian countries.
Under the framework of RCEP, tariff of the company's pickled mustard tubers exported from China to Japan decreased by around 2 percent, Zhang said.
In the first four months of 2022, Chongqing Fuling Zhacai Group Co., Ltd. exported 7.73 million yuan worth of the pickled mustard tubers to other RCEP member states, up 26.8 percent from a year earlier.
Citywide, in the first quarter of this year, pickles valued at 29.9 million yuan were exported from Chongqing to other RCEP member states, an increase of 3.2 percent year on year, official data showed.
"The pickles were only favored by overseas Chinese in the past. Thanks to deepening exchanges, more foreigners are now falling in love with them. With the implementation of the RCEP and ensuing tariff reductions and trade facilitation, our pickles have seen stronger competitiveness in overseas markets," said Sun Xiao, foreign trade manager of Chongqing Fuling Luling Industrial Co., Ltd.
To facilitate the export of pickles, the local customs have launched a raft of measures ranging from simplifying administrative procedures and improving customs clearance efficiency to cracking down on fake products, said Meng Zhenguo, deputy director of Fuling customs.
The popularity of Fuling pickles has also benefited local farmers.
Wang Bangshu, a farmer in Dengjia Village, has planted mustard her whole life. Last year, her 1.3-hectare land yielded over 70 tonnes of mustard, raking in more than 60,000 yuan.
"I never imagined that our mustard could be exported to foreign countries," said Wang.
In 2021, the total output value of the pickle industry in the Fuling District hit 13 billion yuan.