Uygur cotton grower adopts mechanization to improve efficiency and cut costs
By Huang Yue
With a cotton farm of 400 hectares, Yasen Yimin is one of the leading growers in Shaya County in Aksu in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The 39-year-old started to grow cotton in 2004. At that time, he had only a small patch of land and had to do all the work – from plowing to harvesting – by himself.
Gradually, as his field expanded, he hired migrant workers during plowing and harvest seasons.
"In 2013, when I had only three hectares of cotton field, I hired about 50 pickers from Kashgar and Hotan. It took about two months to finish the harvest. And I paid all the pickers 400,000 yuan (about $61,000) in total," Yasen said.
The cotton grower said the pickers were mostly Uygurs, and very hard-working. Some of them would start before dawn, working until sunset, to earn as much as possible.
Yasen paid the pickers 2 yuan per kilogram at that time. He said some could earn about 200 yuan, or about $30 a day – a considerable income for farmworkers.
But with the development of technology, he doesn't need workers to plant or pick cotton by hand anymore. He has dozens of machines instead.
Efficiency up, costs down
"Now I can finish harvesting my 400 hectares of cotton within 20 days with two harvesting machines," he said. "And the total cost in harvest season is about 400,000 yuan."
Yasen earned over $500,000 last year. And in Shaya County, there are over 300 big cotton farms like his.
Data shows the cotton output of the whole county hit over 280,000 tonnes last year, about 92 percent of which was machine-harvested.
Yasen said cotton-growing in Xinjiang is nothing like what some Western media have portrayed, and farmers in the region are living much better lives as a result of economic and technological advances.