En­hanc­ing Agri­cul­tural Qual­ity and Ef­fi­ciency through Re­form

China’s agri­cul­ture re­quires a qual­ity rev­o­lu­tion. Only that will so­lid­ify ef­fec­tive agri­cul­tural prod­ucts sup­ply to meet the de­mands of so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

China Pictorial (English) - - Front Page - Text by Zheng Feng­tian The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor with the School of Agri­cul­tural Eco­nomics and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment at Bei­jing-based Ren­min Univer­sity of China. He has long been com­mit­ted to re­search on is­sues of agri­cul­ture, ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and farm­ers.

How should China carry out the agri­cul­tural sup­ply-side struc­tural re­form to cre­ate an ef­fi­cient sup­ply of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts? The an­swer lies in the qual­ity of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. China’s agri­cul­ture re­quires a qual­ity rev­o­lu­tion. Only that will so­lid­ify ef­fec­tive agri­cul­tural prod­ucts sup­ply to meet the de­mands of so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

China’s agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion must trans­form from the pre­vi­ous mode of only pur­su­ing yield in­creases to a mode fea­tur­ing moder­ately pros­per­ous agri­cul­ture which sets higher re­quire­ments on prod­uct qual­ity, food se­cu­rity, health, and eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion, so as to meet Chi­nese con­sumers’ grow­ing de­mand for qual­ity agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. Achiev­ing this goal not only re­quires struc­tural ad­just­ment of agri­cul­ture and changes in pro­duc­tion modes, but also the re­mod­el­ing of the en­tire in­dus­trial chain from source to cir­cu­la­tion.

By 2020, China will be­come a moder­ately pros­per­ous so­ci­ety in all re­spects. Con­sump­tion habits of the Chi­nese peo­ple will greatly con­trast the times when only ba­sic needs such as food and cloth­ing were sat­is­fied. They will at­tach greater im­por­tance to food qual­ity, health, se­cu­rity and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

For decades, China’s agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion has been quantity-ori­ented. The coun­try’s an­nual agri­cul­tural sta­tis­ti­cal in­di­ca­tors are mainly based on grain yields, and high-qual­ity agri­cul­tural prod­ucts are scarce. Sev­eral ma­jor fac­tors in­flu­ence this phe­nom­e­non.

From the an­gle of pro­duc­tion, al­though China is home to a great num­ber of farm­ers, they don’t pos­sess strong ne­go­ti­a­tion abil­i­ties in the pur­chas­ing process. In­ter­me­di­aries do not raise ac­qui­si­tion prices for agri­cul­tural prod­ucts which use less fer­til­iz­ers and pes­ti­cides. From the an­gle of sales, the cur­rent in­dus­trial chain for China’s agri­cul­tural prod­ucts is not com­plete. Pro­duc­ers have no idea of where their prod­ucts go or who ul­ti­mately con­sumes them. Sim­i­larly, con­sumers don’t know ex­actly who pro­duced the agri­cul­tural prod­ucts they pur­chased. Trust is hard to build be­tween pro­duc­ers and con­sumers, which makes im­prove­ments in qual­ity and yield of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts dif­fi­cult. Agri­cul­tural prod­ucts turned out in large num­bers but of poor qual­ity were eas­ily ac­cepted by con­sumers when they barely had enough to eat and wear, but they hardly meet the re­quire­ments of con­sumers who al­ready lead fairly well-off lives.

To im­prove the qual­ity of China’s agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and meet the up­graded de­mands of an in­creas­ing num­ber of

con­sumers, the en­tire in­dus­trial chain needs to be re­shaped from the bot­tom up.

First, a di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­egy should be em­ployed in seed breed­ing. In­creas­ing yields should no longer be the ma­jor goal of seed breed­ing. Va­ri­eties aim­ing for higher qual­ity should be pro­moted and uti­lized. At present, the pop­u­lar­iza­tion of agri­cul­tural prod­uct va­ri­eties places too much em­pha­sis on yield in­creases, which knocks out high-qual­ity but lower-yield va­ri­eties. While this prac­tice may be prof­itable for pro­duc­ers, it causes enor­mous losses to con­sumers.

Se­cond, the en­tire in­dus­trial chain should be sim­pli­fied and re­struc­tured, and in­te­grated pro­duc­tion should be em­ployed. There are now too many links from pro­duc­tion to con­sump­tion, which makes qual­ity con­trol and man­age­ment a mere for­mal­ity. When fac­ing grain pro­cure­ment from big com­pa­nies, farm­ers don’t have any ne­go­ti­a­tion power and can only rely on quantity. And it is im­pos­si­ble for th­ese en­ter­prises to prop­erly check the qual­ity of prod­ucts from each farmer. As a re­sult, the com­pa­nies and farm­ers don’t trust each other, which fur­ther hurts prod­uct qual­ity.

So­lu­tions for such prob­lems should in­clude: Big com­pa­nies should es­tab­lish agri­cul­tural bases to set up a closer re­la­tion­ship with lo­cal farm­ers or em­ploy in­te­grated pro­duc­tion. Farm­ers can join up to es­tab­lish co­op­er­a­tives and set up their own brands. Through in­te­gra­tion of the pri­mary, sec­ondary, and ter­tiary in­dus­tries, pro­duc­tion won’t be lim­ited to pre­vi­ous cat­e­gories and the in­dus­trial chain will be ex­tended. Farm­ers should es­tab­lish their own sales ter­mi­nals and make di­rect con­nec­tions be­tween pro­duc­tion and sales. Such strate­gies will not only in­crease the in­comes of farm­ers, but give con­sumers the abil­ity to trace the ori­gins of the agri­cul­tural prod­ucts they pur­chased and get trust­wor­thy food.

In the past few years, with China’s con­fir­ma­tion and certification of land rights in ru­ral ar­eas, ru­ral land prop­erty rights have be­come clearer, and the cu­mu­la­tive area of land trans­ferred in the coun­try ex­ceeds 30 per­cent of the to­tal. Var­i­ous new busi­ness en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing big grow­ers, fam­ily farms, farm­ing co­op­er­a­tives, and lead­ing agri­cul­tural en­ter­prises, are de­vel­op­ing fast. Th­ese new busi­ness en­ti­ties bring higher de­mands for many things such as cap­i­tal turnover and mort­gage guar­an­tee, which re­quires pref­er­en­tial poli­cies for farm­ers as well as sup­port­ive fis­cal and mone­tary poli­cies. In the fu­ture, China’s agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment should take mea­sures such as car­ry­ing out scale op­er­a­tion, re­duc­ing un­nec­es­sary use of fer­til­iz­ers and pes­ti­cides and of­fer­ing so­cial ser­vices. Such mea­sures are ex­pected to re­duce pro­duc­tion costs, en­hance agri­cul­tural qual­ity and ef­fi­ciency, and im­prove the weak links in agri­cul­tural sup­ply such as agri­cul­tural in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion, thus re­bal­anc­ing the agri­cul­tural prod­uct struc­ture now plagu­ing the Chi­nese mar­ket.

in­comes of lo­cal en­ter­prises and pro­mote em­ploy­ment of pover­tys­tricken farm­ers. “To­day, we have more than 300 on­line shops, which have cre­ated more than 1,000 jobs,” says Chen Lin­lin, a govern­ment worker re­spon­si­ble for con­struc­tion of the mu­seum.

In a re­mote place like Morin Dawa Daur Au­ton­o­mous Ban­ner, es­tab­lish­ing co­op­er­a­tives and em­ploy­ing the “in­ter­net + agri­cul­ture” strat­egy have pro­vided farm­ers with plat­forms to sell their prod­ucts. Fur­ther­more, it has pro­vided lo­cals with new think­ing modes, busi­ness pat­terns and life­styles.

Still re­ly­ing on agri­cul­ture, the ban­ner is home to a num­ber of big grow­ers. Since 2015 when the ban­ner be­gan to im­ple­ment the “in­ter­net + agri­cul­ture” strat­egy, many lo­cal agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tives were es­tab­lished in suc­ces­sion, in­clud­ing corn, soy­bean, pork and agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery co­op­er­a­tives.

Yue Guil­ing is chair­man of the Xinx­ingyuan Pro­fes­sional Plan­ta­tion Co­op­er­a­tive of Morin Dawa Daur Au­ton­o­mous Ban­ner and pres­i­dent of the ban­ner’s e-com­merce as­so­ci­a­tion. The plan­ta­tion co­op­er­a­tive she op­er­ates was es­tab­lished in Oc­to­ber 2010 to pro­mote the plant­ing, pro­cess­ing, sell­ing, and stor­age of soy­beans, other beans and side crops. The co­op­er­a­tive now man­ages a plan­ta­tion area of 593 hectares and a pro­cess­ing area of more than 8,700 square me­ters and in­cludes 32 house­holds as mem­bers.

With this co­op­er­a­tive as her base, Yue con­tacted an­other 12 co­op­er­a­tives in seven town­ships and vil­lages of the ban­ner, in­clud­ing a homegrown chicken co­op­er­a­tive, a rice cul­ti­va­tion co­op­er­a­tive and a to­bacco plan­ta­tion co­op­er­a­tive. Th­ese co­op­er­a­tives were united to form a ma­jor com­pre­hen­sive group with prod­ucts fea­tur­ing cen­tral­ized pack­age and brand­ing as well as cen­tral­ized train­ing of man­power. Prod­ucts from th­ese co­op­er­a­tives can be found for sale in the ex­pe­ri­ence mu­seum. Through in­ter­net pro­mo­tion and on­line or­ders, prod­ucts from th­ese co­op­er­a­tives are now sold all over the coun­try. Now, Yue man­ages 13 co­op­er­a­tives, each with a mem­ber­ship of about 30 to 40 farm­ing house­holds. And around 500 farm­ing house­holds have ben­e­fited from th­ese co­op­er­a­tives.

On the “in­ter­net + agri­cul­ture” e” strat­egy, Yue has much to say: “It pri­mar­ily solves sales prob­lems plagu­ing agri­cul­tural prod­ucts. In the tra­di­tional sales method, many y agri­cul­tural prod­ucts are hard to sell at de­cent prices. If farm­ers lose se money, they quickly lose mo­ti­va­tion on to continue plant­ing. The new strat­egy places em­pha­sis on qual­ity. y. For ex­am­ple, a kilo­gram of or­di­nary ary soy­beans gen­er­ally sells at around four yuan, but a kilo­gram of top­shelf or­ganic soy­beans sells at 12 to 14 yuan. For farm­ers plant­ing or­ganic soy­beans, they can es­cape poverty in just one year. Con­sid­er­ing ng fac­tors such as sub­si­dies from the govern­ment, farm­ers can en­joy

prod­ucts should also be cre­ated to sat­isfy the in­creas­ing de­mands.

En­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion is tremen­dously sig­nif­i­cant to the ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion strat­egy. The strat­egy can­not be im­ple­mented at the ex­pense of the en­vi­ron­ment. To win the bat­tle for blue skies, straw burn­ing should be reg­u­lated and small-sized coal ovens with high ef­fi­ciency and close-to-zero emis­sions should be pro­moted in ru­ral ar­eas of north­ern China where heat is used most in win­ter. Ur­ban-ru­ral wa­ter sup­ply and sewage treat­ment should be co­or­di­nated, and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly meth­ods should be used to im­prove sewage treat­ment in ru­ral ar­eas. Projects to up­grade re­strooms and wa­ter fa­cil­i­ties should continue to safe­guard wa­ter safety in the coun­try­side. Waste re­cy­cling pat­terns—clas­si­fied at the res­i­den­tial level, col­lected at the vil­lage level, trans­ported at the town level and pro­cessed at the county level— should be pro­moted to ac­ti­vate the cy­cle to min­i­mize waste and gen­er­ate en­ergy. En­vi­ron­men­tal law en­force­ment should be strength­ened in ru­ral ar­eas to pre­vent ur­ban and in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion from be­ing trans­ferred to the coun­try­side. To achieve sus­tain­able ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion in China, pre-as­sess­ment, in-process su­per­vi­sion and ap­praisal of agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion are also re­quired.

The fun­da­men­tal role the mar­ket plays in dis­tribut­ing re­sources as well as the govern­ment’s func­tion should both be given full play in ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion. Spe­cial funds should be launched to in­crease in­vest­ment in en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in ru­ral ar­eas, so suf­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive eco­log­i­cal prod­ucts and ser­vices are made avail­able to en­ter­prises when they par­tic­i­pate in ru­ral con­struc­tion. Many ben­e­fits can be pro­duced by the sys­tem that holds lo­cal Party and govern­ment lead­ers ac­count­able for en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and im­ple­ments com­pen­sa­tion in ac­cor­dance with per­for­mance in en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. The sys­tem fa­vors com­mon pros­per­ity and pre­vents prob­lems. It mo­ti­vates the pub­lic and helps in­crease for­est cov­er­age to im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment. Ad­vanced ap­pli­ca­ble tech­nolo­gies and in­te­gral ren­o­va­tion should be uti­lized and pro­moted. Per­for­mancedriven meth­ods and third-party su­per­vi­sion of pol­lu­tion pre­ven­tion and con­trol, as well as post eval­u­a­tion of con­struc­tion projects, are needed to min­i­mize the cost of im­prov­ing the ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment. Sim­ple lan­guage and down-to-earth meth­ods will help in­crease pub­lic aware­ness of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. Ex­change ac­tiv­i­ties con­cern­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion should be con­ducted to mo­ti­vate vil­lagers to take part in en­vi­ron­men­tal gov­er­nance by per­form­ing tasks such as garbage clas­si­fi­ca­tion, help­ing them gain a sense of pride and honor in con­struct­ing beau­ti­ful vil­lages. Many tiny drops make a mighty ocean. Ev­ery­one’s ef­forts will in­ject vi­tal­ity into the con­struc­tion of the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side as ru­ral China walks the green path of de­vel­op­ment.

Un­der the lead­er­ship of the CPC Cen­tral Com­mit­tee with Xi Jin­ping at the core, Chi­nese peo­ple are work­ing to­gether, and the ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion strat­egy is fos­ter­ing thriv­ing busi­nesses, pleas­ant liv­ing en­vi­ron­ments, im­proved so­cial eti­quette, ef­fec­tive gov­er­nance and pros­per­ity in ru­ral ar­eas of China. Hope­fully, agri­cul­ture will be­come a promis­ing in­dus­try, farm­ing will be­come an at­trac­tive profession, and ru­ral ar­eas will trans­form into ap­peal­ing places to live and work.

Yue Guil­ing (right) dis­cusses the rice sales sit­u­a­tion with Liu Dongling, head of a lo­cal rice co­op­er­a­tive. Since 2015 when the ban­ner be­gan to im­ple­ment the “in­ter­net + agri­cul­ture” strat­egy, many lo­cal agri­cul­tural co­op­er­a­tives were es­tab­lished in...

De­cem­ber 15, 2017: Lo­cals buy veg­eta­bles at Yun­guang Mar­ket in Shang­hai. Con­trast­ing tra­di­tional veg­etable mar­kets, Yun­guang fea­tures uni­form iden­ti­fiers, man­age­ment and brand, en­hanc­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence for con­sumers. VCG

Novem­ber 12, 2017: Vil­lagers pick chrysan­the­mum flow­ers at a plant­ing base in Huai’an City, Jiangsu Prov­ince. The base cov­er­ing an area of dozens of hectares is the big­gest of its kind in the city. by Li Xiang/xin­hua

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