Roses, an epitome of romance, have now become a common family dish among locals, firing up poverty alleviation in Hotan Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Once a poverty stricken farmer relying on planting corn and wheat, Qolpanhan Osman from Aral Township walked out of poverty by growing roses last year.

“I have already earned more than 30,000 yuan (about 4,230 U.S. dollars) by selling roses this year. Our family has half a hectare of land that is now planted with roses,” she said.

Located on the southern edge of the Taklimakan Desert, Aral features an arid climate, unsuitable for traditional crop growth, whereas the ample sunshine and huge temperature difference between day and night endow this place with favourable conditions for rose planting.

The roses Qolpanhan’s family plants is a variant of the Damascus rose, which was introduced to China along the ancient Silk Road. It can be used as a raw material for producing rose syrup, rose tea, perfume and skincare products.

Qolpanhan is not the only one who has shaken off poverty by growing roses, Amina Adil in Bextograk Village is also leading a decent life by managing her rose business.

In 2015, Amina opened the first rose processing factory in her village, producing rose tea and rose syrup. Since then, her business has achieved year-on-year expansion.

“I hope I can get more investment to expand the factory, produce more high-quality products and live a better life,” she said.

Tohtihan Rozi, a mother of five children, has also benefited from working in a rose company.

“Now, I earn 2,600 yuan a month and can even afford gifts for my children sometimes,” she said, who once lived a hard life, but now has a stable income.

The company, established in 2012, mainly produces rose wine, rose tea, skincare products and snacks. It has created over 180,000 job opportunities for locals, with a total income of more than 30 million yuan made over the past several years.

So far, a total of 4,000 hectares of roses have been planted in Hotan, with an output of 3,000 kg of roses each hectare, bringing in 60,000 yuan for farmers on average.

Besides rose planting and processing, the rose-related service industry is also booming in Hotan.

More efforts are being made to develop the “romance economy” which integrates rose culture, rose cosmetics, recreation and health care, said Yin Ruhong, Director of the Poverty Alleviation office in Hotan.

“Roses not only bring cash into local people’s pockets but also add sweetness to their lives,” Yin said.