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Agriculture sector needs 'innovation' for growth

By Zhong Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2015-02-10 07:53

Faced with new challenges and emerging situations, China's agricultural industry needs to drive innovation to expedite reform, an expert from the United States has said.

William Niebur, vice-president of DuPont and DuPont Pioneer North Asia, said that national and provincial administrative policies in agriculture require innovation and should be driven by market forces, because food safety and security - along with the modernization of the agricultural industry - are prerequisites for China's sustainable economic growth and development.

This message followed the Chinese government's release of the annual No 1 Central Document, reinforcing the concept that tackling the "Three Rural Issues" related to farmers, the countryside and agriculture, optimizing grain production and safeguarding farmers' income are the priorities for government policies.

Niebur, who recently visited Bayan county in Heilongjiang province, found all local farmers in a village had agreed to entrust their land to a professional cooperative that manages more than 2,000 hectares of land for other villages.

This type of professional management substantially reduces not only cultivation costs, but also associated risks, said Niebur. This new approach has freed the villagers from having to work the fields and allowed them to enter nearby towns and cities to find work, boosting their incomes.

Niebur said he believes this type of rural transformation is an example of the overall reform required in agriculture. It is based on long-term planning, consistent policies to encourage innovation and a willingness to embrace agricultural modernization. These efforts should be applauded and are necessary for economic progress.

Economic growth in China has recently entered a phase referred to as the "new normal". In this situation, sustainable agricultural development requires modern agricultural policies to promote efficiency, food security, resource conservation and environmental protection.

The country ranks third worldwide for total arable land. China is able to feed 19 percent of the world's population with only 7 percent of the cultivated land, along with key imports. Through labor-intensive and high-investment production practices, China has recorded grain production increases for 11 years in a row.

However, because of an urbanizing population and natural resource constraints, China has begun to move away from extensive management methods driven by large output goals and excessive agricultural input practices.

"Improving agricultural competitiveness will be achieved by promoting technological innovation in agriculture and mandating environmentally sustainable development. China today is clearly one of the major agricultural world powers," Niebur said.

As the world's largest grain consumer, China has stepped up efforts to ensure food safety and security, as well as integrating new agricultural technologies to increase land productivity, while safeguarding its water and limited arable land for farming and food production, said Niebur.

China's rural population accounts for about half of the total. "Managing rural areas by law" has become the focus for developing rural China. The leaders have pledged to let markets play a "decisive role" in the economic reforms.

However, to ensure the profitability and productivity of those producing agricultural products, China needs an effective and transparent law enactment and enforcement system. China has made significant progress in terms of intellectual property rights protection, which has spurred research and development in the industry and ensured long-term benefits for the rural population.

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