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China working to eliminate annual 300 billion yuan loss from post-harvest agricultural products

(People's Daily Online)    15:04, March 30, 2016
China working to eliminate annual 300 billion yuan loss from post-harvest agricultural products
Workers pack oranges in Hubei on Dec. 12, 2015. (Xinhua)

Although China has offered subsidies and taken other measures to reduce the loss of agricultural products caused by problems with storage and processing, post-harvest losses still amount to over 300 billion yuan ($46 billion) each year. Experts and local officials are therefore calling for more measures to combat the issue.

From 2012 to 2015, the Chinese government spent 2.6 billion yuan to subsidize 49,000 households and 5,200 cooperative communities in more than 20 provinces, helping to build facilities to store and process agricultural products like vegetables and fruit.

Those policies are now paying off. With the help of these facilities, the post-harvest loss rate for produce dropped to less than 6 percent, down from 15 percent. In the past four years, due to less waste and higher incomes, the policy has recovered a total of 9.4 billion yuan. In addition, the average life span of these facilities is at least 15 years. Their existence has done a lot to stabilize the market supply.

However, though a great deal of money has been invested, actual demand has not yet been met. China’s preliminary processing capability remains too low; even in subsidized areas, the present capability is far from meeting actual demands, said Sha Na, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top political advisory body.

Liu Mingguo, an official with China’s Ministry of Agriculture, added that a lot of agricultural products were wasted after the harvest because of outdated processing techniques and equipment.

Statistics show that the annual grain loss caused by poor storage is about 20 million tons, and that the number for potatoes is about 16 million tons. The post-harvest loss of fruit and vegetables amounted to about 14 million and 100 million tons respectively. The total post-harvest loss of agricultural products in China exceeds 300 billion yuan each year, which comes out to 10 million hectares of cultivated land.

Provinces including Sichuan, Hubei, Hebei, Gansu and Fujian complain about insufficient subsidized facilities. In addition, with the amendment of environmental protection laws, all drying facilities are required to be fueled by clean energy in order to qualify for government subsidies.

Experts are now calling for more support in improving the storage and processing of agricultural products, as the current bottleneck is restraining China’s efforts to modernize its agriculture industry.

According to Cheng Qinyang, a fellow researcher from the Ministry of Agriculture, measures to promote improved conditions may include expanding the favorable policies to more areas, increasing the subsidies and diversifying the subsidized facilities. Local officials from agricultural departments also recommend that the government accelerate the construction of processing facilities by incentivizing concerned departments and farmers.

Additionally, they suggested giving priority to new types of business models like specialty cooperatives. The government should also support model demonstration farms and offer technical instruction in order to ensure that subsidies are put to the best use possible.

Cheng added that China should draw from the experience of developed nations like Japan and South Korea and integrate the steps of agricultural production so that farmers can enjoy increased earnings. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Hongyu,Bianji)

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