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The sugar apple physical entrance image of Gueiren.

The sugar apple physical entrance image of Gueiren.

As an agricultural district, Gueiren has a host of specialty agricultural products, such as the sugar apples, peanuts, star fruits, and guavas, with the sugar apple as the most outstanding. This is not only because of the fruit's outstanding quality which created more income for the local fruit growers, as it is combined with leisure and tourism, but also because the fruit made the district famous and became a true treasure of Gueiren.

About two dozen years or so ago, the area used for growing sugar apples was not really large, and sugar apple cultivation was quite scattered. After the aggressive effort of local growers over the past two decades or so, the scale of sugar apple production today is over 11,639 hectares, commanding over 90% of the sugar apple cultivation in Tainan City, and the area is still increasing.

In Gueiren, the sugar apple is grown mainly in the Lunding area, with some trees in Kanxi and Kandong. According to Lunding Village Chief Hsu with his years of experience in growing sugar apples in over one hectare of land, the soil, climate, and environment of Gueiren favored sugar apple growing. Although Taitung is the largest sugar apple producing place in Taiwan, typhoons are frequent here and can damage the fruit badly. Gueiren is a better place because there is no foehn in the district and the impact of typhoons is low, transportation is cheaper and the local soil is suitable for growing the fruit. These are the favorable conditions for growing sugar apples in Gueiren.

Although Gueiren geographically and climatically favors sugar apple growing, other factors are not good. First, sugar apple growing started late and the production area is small and expanding the growing scale would be necessary. As Village Chief Hus made a profit from growing sugar apples, it was believed that other growers will follow suit. Second, in terms of government involvement, as the sugar apple was the key agricultural product in which the Taitung County Government invested all resources and the central government also provided various supports, the brand awareness of sugar apples and the profits from sugar apple growing were comparatively higher. In Gueiren, however, even if the fruit was only promoted by the district office and the local famers' association, the quality was relative beyond comparison. As a result, the high quality of sugar apples in Gueiren was still less known to the public.

Raising output value through sugar apple improvement

Speaking of quality, Villiage Chief Hsu could not wait to share with us his experience and efforts. According to him, the fruit of the sugar apple (scientific name Annona squamosa) trees grown by the locals in earlier times had smaller fruits. Over the past three to four years, they changed to the Ta-Mu line variety, an improved species, or made the improvement by grafting them onto the original species. After the improvement, sugar apples now are super big, about 800-1,000 grams each, with large areoles (commonly called the big areole) and sweetness at about 20-24%. As the appearance is good and pulp is tasty, quality has improved significantly, and the profit also increases.

Sugar apple orchard management is rather complex. The processes during the production period include pruning, pollinating, fruit setting and sleeving. Growers also need to implement pest control at all times and use pesticides to improve fruit quality and raise the yield. They also need to insert organic fertilizers to the soil and administer compound fertilizers 8-10 times, not to mention careful irrigation. Therefore, many growers compare sugar apple growing with child raising. Fortunately, apart from bringing better incomes to growers, all efforts can provide consumers with higher quality and tastier sweet apples, raising the overall value of sugar apple production.

Rising awareness of sugar apples from Gueiren

Gueiren Township Office (now Gueiren District Office) began holding the Sugar Apple Festival in 1997, and it has almost been two decades now. Although the industry plays a considerably important role in Gueiren, as most locals practice agriculture, the district is basically an agricultural district. As agricultural practice is tough and income is comparatively low, combining quality agriculture with leisure and tourism will be the only way to raise overall industry value and increase the income of local farmers. Although the budget is limited, the district office tries to organize the Sugar Apple Festival every year, hoping to combine this local agricultural specialty with leisure and tourism and raise the awareness for sugar apples from Gueiren. Apart from promoting the fruit to neighboring counties and cities, we hope that all citizens in Taiwan can taste the tasty sugar apples from Gueiren.

As Sugar Apple Festival has been very successful each year, the district office has turned it into a carnival by combining it with other activities. For example, last year the event venue was swarmed with visitors. The martial arts and object crushing performances presented by members of the local Army Aviation Special Forces won big applause from the visitors. The pond loach catching and bullock cart tour amazed the children. There were many snacks offered for tasting and singing and dancing performances to heat up the carnival. When the “sugar apple”, the soul of the event, came in, visitors could not help their excitement. The district office prepared nearly one thousand kilos of sugar apples for the visitors to taste. Those who won the games could take home some of them. The district office also prepared over one thousand pieces of sugar apple ice pops for visitors to relieve the heat.

Most importantly, one huge sugar apple of over one kilo and quality sugar apples with thin peel, velvety pulp and super sweetness were displayed to show visitors that the sugar apple from Gueiren has surpassed that of Taitung after the continuous improvement of the crop by local growers. In terms of sales, many growers could sell three sugar apples for over NT$1,000. This success has thus encouraged the city office and local growers to promote more aggressively the treasure of Guerin—the sugar apple. We believe that the sugar apple grown in Gueiren will be more stunning every year.

Gorgeous backyard garden in Gueiren

As time goes by and living standard rises, people have become increasingly concerned about taste in life and environmental beautification, and more and more people grow plants for relaxation, thus giving rise to the demand for more knowledge and information about plants.

Under the full support and guidance of the Gueiren Farmers' Association and relevant agricultural units, the Cijia Flora Park in Gueiren is a floral marketplace formed by many local horticulturists sharing the same concept and with enthusiasm. It is considered as the paradise for horticulture lovers. On the arrival at the park, visitors will immediately be captivated by the flowers and trees there and immersed in the pleasant and gorgeous scene in front of them. The Cijia Floral Park was officially established about eight to night years ago. After the flower production and marketing team organized various floral activities, many people were impressed by the park. Currently the park is operated by 10 growers: Cijia Flower (Fucheng Vista), Dahuei Gardening, Jhongguo Gardening, Tainan Flower, Shangyang Flowers and Trees, Shengshui Gardening, Rongrong Supplies, Ailepo Biotech, Jihua Gardening, and Jhongnan Supplies. Entering the Fucheng Vista run by Chief Huang of the flower production and marketing team, he was giving a guided tour to elementary school boy scouts. From afar, Chief Huang was guiding a group of kids explaining to them different types of flowers and their characteristics. Those little boy scouts following him closely were listening carefully while they were travelling one grower after another. Such kind of non-profit devotion and selfless sharing in the park touch people and enable people to feel the spirit of "all for one and one for all" at the park.

Value of the floral industry

According to Chief Huang of the agriculture production and marketing group, foliage plants were the main type of plant cultured at the Qijia Floral Park in the early years and all were sold to florists. When the park began to grow flowers and plants for landscaping later on, the variety of plants grown in the park diversified, and the park became a gorgeous park. In addition, the park has expanded its distribution channels to the landscaping business, wholesalers and retailers. Today, the park has become a holiday attraction. Even on ordinary days, many people visit the park to watch and buy flowers, and people are captivated by the gorgeous scenery of the park. According to Chief Huang, the value of flowers is both spiritual and cultural. The business cycle of the floral and horticultural industry can serve as an indicator of the people's living standards. To promote tourism, many places organize flower-watching festivals and similar events to attract many flower lovers and in turn boost the flower-watching interest. Although the Qijia Floral Park is not really big, after combining it with the tourism development plan launched by the Gueiren District Office, we believe that the park will become a major floral attraction in southern Tainan.

Floral Park: A promising future

The Tainan Flower Festival 2009 was launched in March 2009 and attracted many visitors. However, only a few of them knew that most of the flowers displayed at the festival came from the Qijia Floral Park. Based on its present productivity and by integrating with the flower suppliers across Taiwan, the park can obtain the best information. Even when customers needed something really rare, any supplier in Qijia can find it for them. Therefore, the Qijia Floral Park has become a key supplier of the floral industry in Taiwan.

In view of the future developmental potential, the Qijia Floral Park in Gueiren has made the following plans:

Root-taking education: Promoting outdoor horticulture education in elementary schools

Children are owners of the future, horticulture always brings a positive influence on children, outdoor horticulture teaching makes education more interesting, planning field trips in nature can not only promote elementary education diversification but also cultivate horticultural talents. Also, in terms of the floral industry development in Qijia, promoting horticultural field trips to elementary schools in Tainan can progressively develop the horticultural culture of Qijia. By educating children, this can help to green many households.

Park scale expansion: Giving incentives to locals to become involved in the floral industry

There is a huge space for park expansion. Park expansion can turn the park into the center for flower exchange, stimulate the demand for related industries, encourage the involvement of more locals and develop the features and key of quality agriculture in the district.

Organizing large floral events: Attracting visitors across Taiwan

Large floral activities can always attract more visitors to major festivities. In recent years, many floral-featured activities were a big success. As the Qijia Floral Park has been equipped with adequate energy for floral art, by combining with large floral events, this can promote local tourism and increase relevant incomes with an accumulated advantage.

Traveling to Qijia Floral Park

From the National Highway No. 1, get off at Rende Interchange. Drive east on County Highway 182 to Gueiren. Turn to County Highway 177 toward the north. After about 1km, the signboard World Snake King is in sight. Drive along for about 200m, and the Qijia Floral Park is on the left.

From the National Highway No. 3, get off at Guanmiao Interchange and drive toward Gueiren. Turn west to County Highway 182. At the Zhongxiao North Road, turn right and drive for about 1km, and you will see the Qijia Floral Park