Lychee is a tropical fruit that originated from Guangdong and Fujian provinces in China. Cultivation of the tree in the regions dates back to 1059 CE. China is the top producer of lychees followed by other countries in Southeast Asia and South Africa. Lychees are low in calories and are rich in fiber. 100g of fresh lychee fruit provides 86% of the daily recommended vitamin C which is essential for immunity. Eating nine fruits a day would give one the total daily recommended vitamin C dosage.
Top Lychee Producing Countries in the World
China produces at least 200,000 tons of lychees yearly. Lychee grows well in South China but attempts to grow it in the northern parts failed as the tree could not withstand the northern climate. The provinces which grow the fruit include Guangdong, Fujian, Hainan, Yunnan Sichuan, and Guangxi. Guangdong accounts for approximately 65% of the entire lychee produced in the country. Lychee is the second dominant fruit after citrus in Guangdong. Cultivation of the plant through the years has led to more than 100 varieties being cultivated in the region. Sum Yee Hong, Chen Zi, Tai So, Souey Tung, Kwai May, No Mai Chee, Wai Chee, Haak Yip and Fay Zee Siu are some of the leading cultivars in the province of Guangdong and Fujian. 50% of the lychees grown in Guangdong are from the Wai Chee variety as the tree bears fruit consistently. Souey Tung and Haak Yip are the main cultivars in Fujian. Kwai May and No Mai Chee are of high quality. Varieties mainly grown for the export market include Haak Yip, Fay Zee Siu, Wai Chee, No Mai Chee, and Kwai May.
Taiwan produces around 131,000 tons of lychees yearly. In 1760 and 1860, the lychee varieties of Chong Yun Hong and Haak Yip were introduced from China mainland to northern Taiwan. Large-scale production of the fruit for commercial purpose began towards the end of the 1920's when the fruit was introduced in the southern parts of Taiwan. The tree did well in the south as it was sheltered from the strong Pacific Ocean winds. Lychee is currently grown in most of the districts in southern and central Taiwan. The fruit did not do well in the northern regions as the climate was not favorable. The widely grown cultivar in the country is the Haak Yip, which accounts for 80% of the total lychee trees grown.
Lychee production in Thailand stands at about 10,000 tons a year. Lychee is one of Thailand’s commercial fruit crops, and it ranks as one of the top cultivated crops in the country. The leading lychee producing regions are located between 984 to 1,969 feet above sea level in the northern part of the country between Lamphum, Fang, and Chiang Mai. Cultivars in Thailand were introduced from China in the 1950s though lychee cultivation had been going on earlier.
Commercialization of Lychee
Cultivation of lychee for its fruits started several centuries ago in China on a small scale, but today the commercial production of the fruit has spread throughout the world and is grown extensively in Vietnam, Thailand, India, and China including the whole of Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. From China, the fruit was introduced in several other countries across the world. China is the leading producer and exporter of the fruit which can be eaten fresh, dried, or canned. A large percentage of the fruit is consumed fresh meaning the fruit has a short shelf life. Air layering and budding are used to propagate the plant and cultivation have led to the development of better cultivars of the tree through the years.