Three simultaneous socio-economic shifts are defining the evolution of traditional Chinese agriculture, allowing it to emerge from the corner to which it was industrially confined. The country’s ultimate goal is to synchronize its economic structure with Chinese contemporary society.
The primary objective is a rational and environmentally sustainable use of Chinese agricultural land, as it is still fragmented. Land management and industrial progress, however, do not move at the same pace. Chinese farmers now seek employment in construction sectors for better living standards, as well as for the fear of being replaced by mechanical labor. Land is shrinking because of the expansion of deserts and unstoppable urbanization. The latter, unsurprisingly, takes place in previous more fertile areas (e.g. Guangdong, Zhejiang and Fujian), thus exacerbating the problem. Less arable soil is slowly available year after year.
The second move aims at a more business oriented agriculture, where primary food companies should focus on improving China’s agricultural final products, as the entire agricultural and nutritional processes are directly involved: from grains to fertilizers, from livestock to waste management. In addition, financing in yuan is on the rise, where forest and agricultural companies have already launched their IPOs’.
Finally, traditional Chinese agriculture should lead towards a more transparent market, ensured by the economic players involved. Currently, the country’s price structure for agricultural goods follows an opaque process, from production to consumption. This is seen with garlic-a widely popular good in China-for example, where its price skyrocketed to ten times the original one (not only because it is also supposedly effective against the H1N1 virus).
Although it is still early to make judgments about China’s agricultural commodities market, like that of Chicago set up in 1848, these changes should work towards finding a middle ground between the unpredictability of harvest in accordance with seasons, as well as speculation and the current lack of market oriented public supervision. In today’s China, being increasingly aware of renewable energy and biotechnology, agriculture development presents an important investment opportunity, as well as a formidable technological challenge for public and private actors.