News last update:6 Aug 2012

Foreign help for Chinese farmers

A new wave of agricultural technology specialists from abroad is trying to help Chinese farmers to save water and improve their crop yields.

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.

Water shortage
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.

Slow consolidation
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 the farmers.

Although consolidation may be slow, it seems that foreign agri companies are changing the way Chinese farmers grow their crops.

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