Tea is a very important agricultural economic crop and plays an important role in the development of China’s national economy. According to data from the China Tea Circulation Association, in 2018, the 18 major tea-producing provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) across the country had a tea plantation area of 43.956 million mu and a picking area of more than 34 million mu. Among them, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan and other provinces have tea planting areas. Over 3 million mu, the annual output of dry tea reached 2.616 million tons, the total output value of Maocha broke the 200 billion mark, reaching 215.73 billion yuan, and the domestic sales quota reached 266.1 billion yuan. According to the forecast of the development of China’s tea industry, about 2023, domestic tea sales will exceed the 400 billion yuan mark.
From a global perspective, China is the country of origin of tea, and has always occupied the world’s first position in the area of tea planting and total production, and has played a pivotal role in the development of the global tea industry. Today, Mr. Zhicha will take you to review the basic history and industrial policy of Chinese tea development, hoping to provide some useful reference suggestions to friends who are interested in tea production, planting and sales.
1. The basic course of Chinese tea development since ancient times
1. Discovery and domestication stage before Qin and Han Dynasties
China is the origin of tea. Since Shennong discovered the detoxification effect of tea thousands of years ago, humans began to domesticate and plant tea trees. According to the records of “Huayang Guozhi·Bazhi”, as early as 3,000 years ago, during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the ancestors in Chongqing and Sichuan had begun to grow tea and used it as a tribute to the Zhou royal family.
Tea was widely used as a beverage in the Qin and Han dynasties. Gu Yanwu, a well-known writer in the Qing Dynasty, recorded in his “Diary Records” that “there has been tea drinking since the people of Qin took Shu”. After the Qin Dynasty unified the world, tea began to spread from Sichuan to Henan and Shaanxi, the political, cultural and economic centers of the time. Therefore, the southern part of Henan and the southern part of Shaanxi can be regarded as one of the oldest tea growing areas in China. Then tea began to spread along the Yangtze River to the middle and lower reaches of Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and other places.
2. The prosperity and development stage of tea in the Tang and Song dynasties
When the time came to the Tang and Song Dynasties, tea was rapidly developed, tea planting areas were further expanded to southern China, Fujian, Guangxi and other places, the output was greatly improved, and the tea production technology was further improved. Steamed Qingtuan tea was the mainstream product type at that time. At the same time, loose tea also began to appear. During this period, the tea monopoly system and the taxation of tea became the government’s daily management behavior, especially during the Song Dynasty, the monopoly of tea had a very important influence on the management of tea trade in subsequent dynasties. The later feudal dynasties basically adopted the same monopoly system as the Song Dynasty, but made some adjustments in the details.
3. The roller coaster stage from Ming and Qing to the Republic of China
In the Yuan Dynasty, the tea production area was further expanded on the basis of the Song Dynasty, and the national tea production reached about 100,000 tons. During the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang decreed “to stop building the dragon group, but to pick tea buds to advance”. The production method of tea has undergone a great change, loose tea has become the mainstream, and cake tea has gradually withdrawn from the stage of history. During this period, Zheng He brought tea seeds to Taiwan and opened up a tea area in Taiwan, China, once again enriching the tea planting area. By the time of the Qing Dynasty, most planting areas were almost the same as they are now.
The total tea production in the Qing Dynasty reached 225,000 tons, of which 1.34 billion tons were exported. Due to the rapid increase in exports, which stimulated the development of tea plantations, the country’s planting area reached about 400,000 hectares during this period, which is the largest in history. After the Opium War in the late Qing Dynasty, until the Republic of China, due to social turmoil, people’s lack of livelihood, and economic depression, the scale of tea planting and production in China declined sharply. By the time the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the area of Chinese tea gardens had shrunk to only 154,000 hectares. The output is only 92,100 tons, and the export volume of tea is even more pitiful, less than 10,000 tons, which is less than 1/13 of the peak period of Qing Dynasty exports.
4. Resumption of growth after the founding of New China
After the founding of New China, the party and the state attached great importance to the production and planting of tea, and took many practical and tangible measures to restore tea production. For example, between 1950 and 52, farmers were called upon to reclaim 67,000 hectares of barren tea gardens across the country. Secondly, around the 1960s, many old tea gardens were renovated, with an area of 250,000 hectares. Under the conditions at the time, we established 300 large-scale tea factories across the country, and introduced scientific methods of strip planting and dense planting, and built, renovated and expanded more than 500 tea production bases.
Up to now, China has 21 provinces (autonomous regions, cities) and nearly 1,000 counties and cities that grow tea. According to the large industrial area, they are mainly divided into four areas: Southwest tea area, South China tea area, Jiangnan tea area and Jiangbei tea area. In the big tea area, the types of tea produced mainly include six teas including green tea, white tea, yellow tea, green tea, black tea and black tea, and reprocessed teas. Of course, green tea still occupies most of China’s tea industry, with a market share of more than 60%.
5. Prosperous development stage after reform and opening up
According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics and the Planting Management Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, the planting area in Taiwan reached 521,700 hectares in 1970, and it increased to 1.0708 million hectares in 1980. Thirty years later, in 2010, the planting area of tea gardens in China reached 1.9702 million hectares, and now the national planting area in 2018 is 43.956 million hectares, which is 293.04 hectares when converted into hectares.
In 2009, China’s domestic tea sales reached 890,200 tons, and in 2018, the total domestic tea sales reached 1,910,500 tons, a very significant increase. Judging from the current data, the development of China’s tea market is relatively stable, the tea structure has been further optimized, the product quality has been gradually improved, and the industrial efficiency has grown rapidly. There is still a large room for development in the future.
2. Development history of China’s tea industry policy
1. The management of the monopoly tea industry before the founding of New China, and the tea introduction system
Before the founding of New China, the feudal society’s tea industry management system was mainly government monopoly, and this system emerged during the Song Dynasty. At that time, tea farmers and tea merchants were not allowed to trade privately. After tea farmers had planted tea, they had to send tea to a special mountain farm, and they had to pay certain taxes. Merchants can only go to the place designated by the government to purchase tea and then sell it. If merchants want to engage in tea trading, they must also obtain a transaction certificate issued by the government. This is how the tea import system of later generations came from. Similarly, merchant transactions also need to pay certain taxes. And this system has always been used by later dynasties, with only some adjustments in the details.
2. The state-owned tea industry system from 1949 to the end of the 1970s, unified purchasing and marketing
After the founding of New China, China’s industrial policy for tea development has undergone several different adjustments. This is very closely related to the social development environment at that time and the national policies.
In the planned economy era before 1979, tea was mainly used as an important commodity for export exchange, and the state had monopolistic operations. During this period, we had a special tea company that organized the planting, production, processing, transportation and sales of tea in major tea areas. So around the 1960s, more than 300 large-scale tea factories, more than 500 tea production bases, and 28 tea export production systems were established across the country. After the socialist transformation, private individuals cannot buy or sell tea. This transaction can only be done through a supply and marketing agency or a state-appointed franchise agency.
3. From 1980 to 2000, liberalize tea control policies and encourage private tea trade
After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, rural areas began to implement the household contract responsibility system. Many state-owned tea factories began to restructure. Private and private tea planting and production were allowed. Tea was no longer purchased by state-owned companies and supply and marketing cooperatives. Make adjustments to unified purchases and sales. Around 1990, in addition to the unified purchase and sale of frontier tea, both domestic tea and export tea have begun to be liberalized, and they can be sold at bargaining prices, and they have begun to increase market circulation and expand sales channels. China’s tea production and planting has ushered in a major event. Outbreak period.
From 1990 to 2000, as the country’s reform and opening up continued to deepen, tea was further integrated into the tide of market economy. The state began to fully liberalize financial subsidies for tea trade exports and unified joint operations, and even abolished the tea export approval system in 1999. Regarding the domestic tea market, the state vigorously encourages tea planting and production at this stage, private and individual tea farmers have become a very active force in the domestic market, and the enthusiasm of tea farmers in planting tea has been greatly liberated and improved.
4. The market-oriented management policy of the tea industry since 2000 is in line with international standards, and opportunities and challenges coexist.
From 2000 to now, China’s tea market has been further developed. But at the same time, competition with the world has become more intense. This is because tea production in countries including Sri Lanka, Kenya, India and Indonesia has also achieved great development. In terms of tea exports, they have had fierce competition with China.