The agricultural economic scenario of China has been going through continuous changes with the shifting state of affairs in the general financial system of the country in the past few decades. It has been a difficult task for the government of China to accommodate the masses, their aspirations and the implications that have come with embracing globalization.
Image Credits : China farming by Eviltomthai at Creative Commons/Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/eviltomthai/3999825851/sizes/m/in/photostream/)
Changes in Agriculture in China
In contemporary history, China primarily is a nation state that is associated with the ‘Red Army’; second only to Russia. With the coming of the communist regime, all channels of trade in the country were taken over by the government, and dictated by the Public Distribution System (PDS). Despite the imposition of regulations and laws, thousands of farmers hoarded pulses and other agricultural produce, and sold them through “hush-hush” commercial conduits.
Moreover, one of the major breakthroughs in this sector came in the early 1980s when the Chinese Government took on the major task of sanctioning all such private mediums of business, and making government procurement a voluntary option for the farmers. By 1985, all such methods were disbanded, and self-employment in all fields of work, especially agriculture, became a mainstay. This step of market liberalization of agricultural products resulted in a boom in farming output as it also relaxed the ‘grow grain everywhere’ policy preached by Mao Zedong. Instead, farmers could decide what crops to grow according to climate conditions and market feasibilities.
Changes in Agriculture in China : A New Dawn
Cash crops like cotton, tea, jute, oil seeds, hemp and sugarcane received a boost, and different villages that were earlier isolated “islet-like” economies became extremely interdependent, spurring the exchange of labor, capital, and modern ideas for cultivation. This gave rise to the creation of cooperatives and citizen-owned business initiatives. In a few years, a majority of the agricultural brotherhood flourished and was released from the miseries of poverty.
Agricultural trade subsequently evened out with the stabilization of its market forces that were responsible for farm produce and good harvests in the latter half of the 1990s. However, as farming became more mechanized globally, and the world population began to grow at a stupendous rate, focus on the international market increased. This focus later became an efficient deliverance of wares, but from a little arable land with compromised quality. Perceptibly, this led to the problem of surplus commodity in the domestic agricultural picture of China, and forced it to tackle the dual problems of capital-intensive competence and rendering fine-quality goods.
At this point in time, the government brought out policy reforms concerning structural changes in China’s agriculture. They merged the pursuit of unrelenting growth of the quantity of production with the need for quality, by implementing various projects that helped offset surplus crops and animal by-products with the deficient ones, and investing in value-adding techniques such food-processing and packaging. The government focused on giving the local peasants direct experience with the import-export prospects, and encouraged township enterprises that meticulously calculated demand and the nature to augment private profits and thereby kept incessant superfluous merchandise-production at bay.
A major impact on China’s agriculture came with the country’s accession with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. As international prices of grain were much lower than the local prices, the farmers of China were brought up to speed with the changes and supported to use machinery on the fields and make them capital-intensive. Surplus labor was subsequently absorbed into the growing secondary and tertiary sectors. Also, organic farming took widespread root in China to tap the vital US organic marketplace and large customer base, as well as to meet food safety standards, aid health benefits, and infuse cash flow into rural farming families.
China has, therefore, steadily blossomed from a country of multi-level community farming to a global player in agricultural produce. The next major change in China’s agriculture is predicted by experts to meet the twin crisis of climate change and the country’s ever-increasing population against its severely constrained accessibility of arable land. Policy recommendations to make up for such a predicament include educating the farmers and garnering their active participation in decisions concerning land reforms, adapting agricultural practices to changed climatic patterns with the provision of affordable technology for desired adjustment, and continuing financial support through such tough times.