Currently, grape leaves are now a major contributor to the rising incomes of villagers in Hotan Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Sitting on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert, this prefecture has plenty of sunlight, little rain and large temperature differences between day and night, making it a perfect area to grow fruit.
Gulnisahan Tohti, who has been growing grapes for more than two decades in the township of Langan, Yutian County, never would have imagined that grape leaves would be sold at a higher price than grapes. The purchase price of grape leaves this year reached eight yuan (about 1.13 U.S. dollars) per kilo, while grapes fetched six yuan a kilo, she said.
Not only Gulnisahan, but also many other grape farmers have made money by selling grape leaves to a local food processing firm that specializes in making rice-stuffed grape leaves, also known as dolmas. Dolmas, which has a centuries-old history, is a popular appetizer in many countries, especially in Mediterranean nations.
Mutallip Anwar, general manager of the firm, saw the opportunity while studying in London years ago. Noticing that dolmas sold well in Western countries, he thought of the big vineyard in his hometown of Xinjiang. After a series of field trips, Mutallip found leaves suitable for making dolmas in Yutian County and then started his business there. Now his products sell like hot cakes in Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Australia and the United States.