China’s 122 million ha of farmland represents all climatic zones, from tropical to frigid, but the temperate zone, which is suitable for agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishing, is predominant. The main crops are rice, millet, buckwheat, soybeans, tea, mulberry, ramie, abutilon, pears, peaches, oranges, litchis, longans, hawthorns and kiwis. China has abundant resources for aquatic production along its coastline.
Since 1978, the agricultural structure in China has changed sharply from production mainly of grains to joint development of grains, cash crops, and fodder crops. Today, farmland is managed by collective farms, companies, and individual farmers, while state-owned farms account for only 4% of the total cultivated area. The agricultural population is 900 million, 70% of the total Chinese population; however, agriculture accounts for only 13.2% of national GDP. In 2005, the value of agricultural exports was US$ 27.18 billion, while the value of imports was US$28.65 billion. The main export products are rice, wheat, maize, soybeans, cotton, plant oil, sugar, vegetables, fruits, and livestock and aquatic products.
Organic Agriculture in China
Organically managed land increased from 342,000 ha (0.26%) in 2003 to 978,000 ha in 2005. There are about 20 categories of certified organic or in-conversion products so far. Cereals, beans, and tea account for the major portion, while vegetables, fruits, and animals are still a small part. Of the total value of organic products, 2.2 billion RMB in 2004, about 1.2 billion RMB was earned from exports and only 0.2 billion RMB from the domestic market, with
0.8 billion RMB sold as conventional products. The organic products for export are mainly soybeans, tea, vegetables, and cereals; the main export markets are the USA, EU, Japan, and some Southeast Asia countries.
The domestic organic market has increased rapidly in recent years. The main organic products for the domestic market are vegetables, tea, rice, fruits, and honey. In Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing, the price of organic-in-conversion vegetables is 1.5 to 2 times that of conventional ones in the supermarkets, while certified organic vegetables are up to 7 times as expensive. Still, the sales are quite good. Of course, this may be what is called ‘rarity makes precious’, but anyway is a true reflection of the price of organic food in the most developed cities of China at the initial stage of its development. (Authors: Ms. Weihua Xie, Mr. Wenpeng You, Mr. Dong Lu and Mr. Xingji Xiao)
Further Reading on China's Organic Sector development:
Case Studies of Organic Sector Development
Early Development of Organic Farming Practices
Regulations ,Policies, and Lessons Learned
(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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