Ap­pre­ci­at­ing the ben­e­fits of or­ganic food

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

A job in­ter­view isn’t some­where you’d ex­pect to raise a laugh but that’s what I man­aged to do when I ap­plied for my cur­rent job at China Daily.

As I was quizzed by the bosses at the pa­per’s plush of­fices in heart of the City of Lon­don, I was asked about my hob­bies. I’d men­tioned in my CV that I liked rock mu­sic and travel. Was there any­thing else, they asked, no doubt won­der­ing how I would keep my­self oc­cu­pied in China.

“I like gar­den­ing,” I said, prompt­ing some hearty laughs from my in­ter­view­ers.

“You won’t be able to do much of that in Bei­jing,” they said.

Well, ob­vi­ously not. But it’s true, I do love gar­den­ing and one of the sad­dest things I had to do when I came to China was leave be­hind my

This Day, That Year

Item­fromAug3,1997,in Chi­naDaily:ABei­jin­gres­i­dents­e­lectsclothin­gata de­part­mentstore­run­bythe high-endFrenchre­tail­erGa­leriesLafayette.The­cen­tral gov­ern­men­thas­ap­proved16 for­eign-fund­ed­ven­ture­sas the­coun­try­grad­u­al­ly­opens up­it­sre­tail­sec­tor.

Ma­jor depart­ment stores are cash­ing in on China’s in­sa­tiable ap­petite for for­eign prod­ucts.

Ga­leries Lafayette re­turned to the cap­i­tal in veg­etable plot.

Even as a young­ster I was in­ter­ested in hor­ti­cul­ture and when I be­came a home­owner I al­ways en­joyed tend­ing the gar­den. How­ever, it was when I be­came a par­ent that I be­came keen on veg­etable gar­den­ing.

I was read­ing re­cently that Chi­nese peo­ple are be­com­ing more en­thu­si­as­tic about or­ganic food, no doubt prompted by var­i­ous scares about the qual­ity of pro­duce over the years. China has in­tro­duced strict stan­dards to en­sure its or­ganic prod­ucts are just that — or­ganic, pro­duced with­out the use of ar­ti­fi­cial fer­til­iz­ers or pes­ti­cides.

When you be­come a par­ent, such con­sid­er­a­tions be­come ex­tremely im­por­tant. You don’t want your precious lit­tle one in­gest­ing strange chem­i­cals and ge­net­i­cally-mod­i­fied mon­strosi­ties. My son is now 19 and I can proudly say he’s 90-odd per­cent or­ganic.

When he was born, we bought the usual or­ganic baby prod­ucts but my wife 2013, 15 years af­ter the French re­tailer closed its only store in Bei­jing due to poor sales.

In 2011, US re­tailer Macy’s started of­fer­ing ship­ments to the coun­try, en­cour­aged by the heavy traf­fic to its web­sites from Chi­nese shop­pers.

As the on­line business flour­ishes, phys­i­cal stores are los­ing cus­tomers.

The 130-year-old Bri­tish re­tailer Marks & Spencer has shut all of its 10 stores in the Chi­nese main­land. Its branch in Bei­jing was closed in March. soon grad­u­ated to mak­ing her own baby food from or­ganic veg­eta­bles. We ate or­ganic food our­selves — the taste bore no com­par­i­son to the per­fect-yet-bland supermarket va­ri­eties. A potato re­ally tasted like a potato, a carrot like a carrot.

But buy­ing or­ganic can be an ex­pen­sive business. I’ve had supermarket check­out peo­ple look at me like I’m crazy for buy­ing an or­ganic chicken at sev­eral times the price of a nonor­ganic va­ri­ety.

So I hit upon the idea of grow­ing some of my own or­ganic pro­duce. We had a small plot of land with our house so I cre­ated four raised beds and planted a few things, with the in­ten­tion of ro­tat­ing crops every year.

The first year I think I planted pota­toes, car­rots, cauliflower and let­tuce. To my de­light, they all grew won­der­fully well — a bit too well in the case of the let­tuce. Have you ever tried to dis­pose of 20 soc­cer ball-sized let­tuces that have sud­denly come into your pos­ses­sion?

To meet the chang­ing shop­ping habits of Chi­nese con­sumers, Marks & Spencer has opened stores on Tmall and JD, two of the largest on­line mar­ket­places in China.

In Oc­to­ber, US e-com­merce be­he­moth Ama­zon launched Ama­zon Prime in China to grab a big­ger share of the lu­cra­tive mar­ket.

Last year, China’s cross­bor­der on­line shop­ping grew by 24 per­cent to 6.3 tril­lion yuan ($924 bil­lion), ac­cord-

Over the years I ad­justed my choices of crops. Some, such as most bras­si­cas — cauliflower, broc­coli and cab­bage — were just too time-con­sum­ing for a part­time gar­dener like my­self, who also had to work long hours. Pick­ing off all those cater­pil­lars was a chore too far.

I ended up choos­ing pota­toes, broad beans, peas, gar­lic, kale and spring onions. Every year we looked for­ward to har­vest­ing them and every year they were de­li­cious, de­spite the best ef­forts of slugs, mice, moles, rab­bits and even sheep to stop them get­ting to our ta­ble.

It’s true, I can’t do any gar­den­ing now I’m in China but I’m very en­cour­aged to see that this huge na­tion is tak­ing a re­spon­si­ble at­ti­tude and en­cour­ag­ing or­ganic agriculture. Even if you don’t be­lieve in the enor­mous en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, just en­joy the taste.

Con­tact the writer at david@chi­nadaily.com.cn ing to mar­ket con­sul­tancy iiMe­dia Re­search.

By 2020, a quar­ter of the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion will be shop­ping ei­ther di­rectly from for­eign-based web­sites or through third par­ties, it said.

LI FUHUA / FOR CHINA DAILY

Peo­ple swim across the Han­jiang River in Xiangyang, Hubei province, to com­mem­o­rate Chair­man Mao Ze­dong’s cross­ing of the Yangtze River four times between 1956 and 1966.

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