A new wave of agricultural technology specialists from abroad is trying to
help Chinese farmers to save water and improve their crop
The country's farmers need all the help they can get. Not only have they been
deprived of funding and technology, environmental math is against them too.
Farmers lack the equipment required to respond to an increasing demand for
agricultural products, as well as an adequate social security apparatus.
China's farmers have to feed a fifth of the
world's population using 10% of its arable land. Government analysts say that
this will result in dramatic water shortage by 2030 if usage continues at its
present rate. In a nation where agriculture accounts for 70% of water
consumption, catastrophe may only be avoided through improved efficiency.
"In northern China, if you want to develop large-scale mechanized
agriculture, irrigation is a must." said Frank Yan, China chief representative
for irrigation company Lindsay Manufacturing. Lindsay's center-pivot irrigation
machines (starting price US$35,000) offer water savings of 50%. In 2005, the
company sold 30-40 machines in China; it expects to pass 300 sales this year.
Efficiency and technology can
deliver water savings and improve yield; mechanized harvesting can bring in
enormous quantities of produce in a fraction of the time of traditional labor;
new animal breeds can increase husbandry output; and better fertilizers and
pesticides can ward off pests and disease. But these solutions can be a hard
sell to the vast majority of farmers, who tend their small plots of land using
the same methods as their great-grandparents. Where modern techniques have been
introduced, farmers often don't know how to incorporate them effectively. Many
companies are therefore establishing closer links with the product source and
Although consolidation may be slow, it seems that foreign
agri companies are changing the way Chinese farmers grow their crops.
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