China’s agricultural sector learns to adapt
Some changes are striking. Other changes are more striking, but not so when looked at, such as the farms in the northern part of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, where I worked in the 1970s.
I took a trip there recently. They are the same farms. I used to know them so well; the roads, canals, and large swaths of green crops extending all the way to the horizon.
But take a closer look at them: there are no more workers carrying spades on their shoulders, busy running up and down the canal.
This Day, That Year
The only farmworker I met was resting in his Toyota Corolla outside a computercontrolled pumping station connected to a regional drip irrigation network, “a system taught by the Israelis”.
The crops, I learned, were all cotton. There is no summer harvest for wheat nowadays.
“The State has had enough grain, I think. It wants us to grow just cotton,” the worker said.
The farms of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps now grow half of the cotton in Xinjiang, with a “quality next only to the Egyptian product.”
No more cotton pickers, either, as Xinjiang used to need every autumn — trainloads of them from all other provinces.
“We drive cotton combines from America.”
From where I stood, close to 4,000 kilometers away from the sea in any direction, there were irrigation technology from Israel, material for fine textile exports to the world, and farm machinery from the United States.
The world is not only flat. It’s like a kitchen of East-West fusion, where the chef ceaselessly comes up with new recipes. The change can be upsetting at times, admittedly.
If I were sent back to work on those farms, I would have to learn my job all over again. Fortunately I don’t have to; I went to college in the early 1980s.
So the ultimate challenge is that you must learn to adapt, and to build for yourself a new way of life. The other day, a young colleague of mine asked Jim Rogers, co-founder with George Soros of the legendary Quantum Fund, which industries are good for investment. The answer was: “If I were you, I would build a farm.”
The world has a greater need than ever for more good foods.
To produce them, one will learn not only to adopt Israeli irrigation methods, and to drive American farm machines.
A latest requirement is to operate agricultural drones, which are increasingly popular and already make up 70 percent of China’s drone market.
Contact the writer at edzhang@ chinadaily.com.cn