China Ramps Up Peri-Urban Farming for Beijing Consumers

Many Chinese farms today are still quite small (on average less than 0.6 hectares of land per household) and provide low qualities of life for Chinese farmers. But China’s agri-food system has begun transforming over the past 30 years from a traditional, smallholder-based production system to a more modern form of peri-urban farming for cities.

The Central Government agriculture policy now promotes larger, more advanced farms, intended to provide more income per farmer, and enabling the purchase of more technology and inputs. The Chinese Government hopes that this model will increase agricultural efficiency while making agriculture more attractive among youth, while also providing farmers with a better quality of life.

An area of explosive growth has been in the peri-urban greenhouse production of vegetables for consumers in the Beijing market.  

Some 290 cooperative farming families cultivate vegetables covering 200 hectares of land. These vegetables include sweet corn, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and many others, and are sold primarily to large retail stores for urban consumers in Beijing.

The greenhouses on this farm are technologically advanced and environmentally efficient. They grow vegetables year-round, using minimum amounts of needed fertilizer, crop protection products and water for irrigation. In cooperation with nearby chicken farms, the waste from the nearby chickens is treated in stages to provide clean water for irrigation and to capture biogas for energy use. The liquid water is separated from the solid waste in the treatment process, recycling as much of the waste as possible into useful inputs.

These cooperatives are part of a greater movement by China to consolidate and modernize the countryside. China imagines an agricultural future where farmers live in orderly communities and perform agriculture on a larger scale, free from the uncertainties and risks of smallholder farming.

Photo credit: Margaret Zeigler/GHI

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