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Agricultural supply-side reform creates organic farming craze
Last Updated: 2017-03-02 07:41 | Xinhua
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Although it's freezing outside, Gu Defu is planning for his spring ploughing.

Gu, a villager from Lanxi Township, Lanxi County, in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, is going to check the prices of fertilizers. The county, located on the Songnen Plain, is one of the leading growers of corn, rice, soy beans and potatoes in northeast China, known as the country's granary.

"I'm not ready to buy seeds and fertilizers right now," said Gu, who will not plant much corn this year because of the low price.

China, home to 1.3 billion people, maintains substantial grain reserves due to food security concerns. It introduced a corn reserve purchasing program nine years ago, aiming to protect the price and ensure farmers keep growing the staple grain.

However, excessive inventory and the former rigid pricing mechanism have resulted in waste.

China ceased the program last year to mold it into a more market-oriented one, causing the corn price to drop.

"Farmers will ask what to grow if not more corn this year," said Feng Hetao, an official from the agriculture work office of Lanxi County, adding that some corn growers were discouraged by the price drop.

Things are different in Wannian County, eastern China's Jiangxi Province.

Luo Huimin, 42, is looking around for plots in the mountains, which are not suitable for mechanized farming.

"Such land is pollutant and pest free. It is ideal for growing eco-rice," said Luo, who started his organic farming dream last year by taking on the lease of 1,000 mu (66.7 hectares) of such land in the county.

He expects to receive organic certification by the end of this year.

By online customization marketing, Luo is able to sell his eco-rice at a price 10 times that of ordinary rice.

He hopes to rent another 1,000 mu of land to meet the increasing demand for green rice.

An Internet agricultural investment and sales company based in Dongguan city, southern China's Guangdong Province, signed a contract of intent to order at least 500,000 kg of rice from Luo this year.

Xu Xinchun is one of the contributors to and beneficiaries of Luo's ambition.

Employed by Luo's company, the 53-year-old villager is in charge of 220 mu of patches scattered in valleys around his village of Huangdun, Peimei Township, Wannian County.

"We have to transplant the rice seedlings, irrigate, weed and reap it all by hand," Xu said. "It's a hard labor. I earned more than 20,000 yuan (about 2,911 U.S. dollars) last year. It's worth it." Last year, he made five times what he used to earn from farming.

Xu not only farms but also supervises, and there are cameras along the fields.

"We must guarantee that no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are applied," he said.

Luo is not the first person who saw the business opportunities.

Lei Yingguo, 36, leads a cooperative with more than 17,800 mu of paddy fields in Xiushi Township, Fengcheng city, Jiangxi. He transferred to organic farming a few years ago and has a trademark registered in his own name. Now one-fifth of his cooperative's land yields organic rice. The branded rice sells at more than 80 yuan per kg.

"Non-organic rice is not profitable," said Lei. "I would lose money if I failed to readjust the farming structure."

He plans to increase the acreage of organic rice by one-third this year, to 5,000 mu.

Imported rice has squeezed the profits and market shares of domestic grain producers. More people are expected to join organic farming following agricultural supply-side reform, according to Yu Fuying from Fengcheng's agriculture bureau.

China will deepen supply-side structural reform in agriculture to develop the sector, according to a policy document released on Feb. 5 by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council.

The document called for improving structures in the industry, promoting green production, extending the sector's industrial and value chain, boosting innovation, consolidating shared rural development and enhancing rural reform.

After considering all his agricultural options, Gu Defu has his own understanding of supply-side structural reform: no matter what you grow, go green and organic.

"I'll try fresh maize this year because I heard it sells well," he said.

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