Action needed on diminished status of China's agriculture

By Cai Hanping Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/20 21:13:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT


Having devoted myself to the agriculture industry, there are some things I have learned and that I want to share.

First, opportunism is the greatest danger for agriculture. Agriculture is different from the Internet or the automobile industry, because as well as yielding commodities, it is fundamental for the support of life. However, when people discuss the developing opportunities of agriculture in China, they only discuss its economic and commodity attributes, without giving thought to its special purpose. The so-called "coming opportunities" are actually some people's lust for money. The reason why there is a great mess in Chinese agriculture is that the current industry is money oriented.

It is not difficult to understand the chaotic phenomena in the current agricultural industry. Some people are working for the agricultural industry, while some are just trying to make money from it. Some people are aiming to produce food, while others are treating food as goods that are no different from other commodities traded in the market.

The core value from agriculture is feeding people. As we need to eat every day, agricultural opportunities are always there, but simply linking agriculture to money will cause endless damage. First, it plundered the welfare of farmers, leading to pure speculation. Second, it destroyed the ecological balance of agriculture and pulled the industry into a vicious utilitarian cycle. Third, this led to the problem of food safety, which has always worried the public.

Only "true love" can improve agriculture. China has thousands of years of history of agricultural civilization, but the industry is no longer regarded as being refined and highly developed. However, while it is belittled by many people as purely a gathering of smallholder farmers, Chinese agriculture is recognized by the world's agricultural institutions as having produced a combination of intensive, sustainable and vigorous farming. It is also recognized that this model has allowed China to constantly and successfully feed the largest population on the planet for thousands of years, despite China's limited territory.

Throughout history, there are examples of farming territory that have become wasteland due to soil fertility depletion. To my great sadness, the country that created the world's most intelligent farming model is now walking back toward the previous failures of other cultures.

In China, the last generations of traditional farmers are getting old. Among the new generations, many believe that they cannot rely on farming for their livelihoods so they choose to become migrant workers instead. Some come back to farming, but because they didn't inherit and master the traditional agricultural practices, they can only be ruled by the modern agricultural industry as low-level workers. China's agriculture has been directed by outsiders instead of our most experienced people. Frankly, the so-called "modern agriculture" is a process of predatory industrialization based on the premise of maximizing profits.

It can be said that some of the Chinese people with the best understanding of farming are leaving the agriculture industry. Meanwhile, in contrast to the movement of rural people toward the cities, more and more rich people from the city are renting land to plant food for themselves. Few of them do this for money; they just want to eat safe food. When the citizens only dare to eat the food they have grown themselves, isn't it time for some deep national introspection about this?

Indeed, fertilizers and pesticides are widely used by farmers, and they are also tightly related to food safety. But it is worth understanding that nowadays the ways of farming are not in accordance with farmers' decisions. Farmers may not be able to earn any money from farming, and they even have to rely on part-time work to feed themselves. What's more, they are at risk of suffering public accusations.

So, a number of people have started to step into agriculture not to earn money but to eat safe food. This is a kind of genuine love for agriculture. When people's core purpose is not necessarily to make money, they can always stick to their bottom line.

The author is president of Hunan Elephant Legs Brand Management.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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