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The real “Happy Farm”: Contract farming spurs the rural economy in China

By Miao Wanyi (People's Daily Online)    15:58, August 22, 2018
The real “Happy Farm”: Contract farming spurs the rural economy in China
Photo courtesy of Vizdan

“Ichi-go ichi-e, see you next year, white apricots.”

Wang Jinqiu (pseudonym) remembers the luscious and enthralling fruit. Even more, she remembers the image she captured on camera of her joyful little girl holding the apricots.

The white apricots are from Kashgar, an oasis city surrounded by desert in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The city is known for its fruits, such as candy apples in December, white grapes in August, and Hami melons in September, while walnuts and jujube are available the whole calendar year.

“Never mistake distance as impatience. We spent a whole year waiting for the precious fruit, and we are not disappointed,” Wang told People’s Daily.

Living in Dongguan, south China’s Guangdong Province, some 5,500 kilometers away from Kashgar, Wang’s family receives fresh fruits and nuts with well-printed postcards featuring local farmers and their families each month, like the picture of her daughter holding apricots.

The sweet fruit and memories came from the apricot tree the family adopted in Bachu county last summer, which marked a new form of contract farming to help Chinese farmers

Wang’s family-signed contracts for the procurement of fruits and nuts from local farmers through Xinjiang-based e-commerce company Vizdan Trading Co. Ltd., whose name means “conscience” in Uyghur, which is a leading player in e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Village Taobao scheme.

Village Taobao is a rural version of Taobao, which aims to directly connect rural farmers with urban customers and raise living standards in China’s countryside through online contract farming.

“Now, we plant beautiful fruits that are in demand and no longer worry about how to sell them thanks to Vizdan and Village Taobao. Some 60 local families have been lifted out of poverty in Bachu County, including mine,” said Yzp Rahman, a contract farmer of Vizdan with more than three tons Hami melons.

The industrialization of agriculture in China has got on the fast track with the “Internet+” Strategy, after the nation released the “No.1 Central Document” in 2016, setting out a package of polices aimed at revitalizing rural areas, with contract farming as the most noticeable one.

The new mode is widely hailed as an innovative method to boost farmers’ income in a short time, but also create a healthy industrial ecology for contract farming in a long run, experts noted.

Few crops could be sold outside of some remote rural areas in China, due to poor transport infrastructure. In recent years, however, with the construction of modern-day infrastructure, particularly regional transportation networks and the improvement of refrigeration techniques, local specialties can more easily make their way around the world.

“The popular online game Happy Farm has turned into reality in China as contract farming grew more popular in the less-developed border regions,” Wang Jianxun, vice president of Alibaba Group and manager of Village Taobao, said in April.

Take Wang’s family for example, the adopted apricot tree costs 20,000 yuan ($3,044) as advance payment, which already doubles the average annual income of local families in Bachu county.

Interest in “Happy Farm” continues to grow, particularly in regions whose economy was primarily based on central planning, becoming more liberalized markets through multi-layer investment and cooperation.

Similarly, Quannan County in east China’s Jiangxi Province, which is known for grapes and corns, has also introduced the “businesses + farmers” mode of contract farming, which has lifted 2,300 households of residents out of poverty.

In northeast China’s Jilin Province, customers can now order different types of rice seeds online and receive well-packed new rice at harvest time.

“Changing consumption habits, such as greater demand for fresh and organic foods in urban areas, the growing role of e-commerce, and the continued expansion of logistics services, have also provided impetus for further development of contract farming in China,” Liu Jingwen, founder of Vizdan, told People’s Daily.

The pain of chronic labor shortage in China’s rural areas is becoming less of an issue.

“The changes mean we must be more professional and better ensure food security as people value quality more than advertisement,” Liu said.

The blossoming of contract farming in China has shed light on the promising future of rural China. “May the desert become a honey oasis,” said Ji Hua, a customer who purchased watermelon from Yzp Rahman’s melon field.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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