Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mechanize the corn harvest!

A summit on corn harvest mechanization was held in Shandong Province's Weifang City on September 20. The meeting lauded the great progress, but charged local officials with working hard to achieve the goal of mechanizing at least half of the corn harvest by 2020.

Chinese authorities began giving subsidies for agricultural machinery in 2004. The value of output in the farm machinery industry rose from 75.3 billion yuan in 2003 to 230 billion yuan in 2009 (makes one wonder whether the subsidy is for farmers or for farm equipment makers).

The degree of mechanization is uneven. Wheat harvesting is said to be almost entirely mechanized. According to the article, corn cultivation is 83.5% mechanized, sowing is 72.5% mechanized, but corn harvest is only 16.9% mechanized. It varies by region. Shandong Province has the highest rate of mechanized corn harvest, covering 70% of corn area. Henan's rate increased to over 40%, an increase of 12 percentage points. Hebei is at 25%. The rate is expected to rise 5 percentage points in the northeastern provinces. In hilly and mountainous southern regions, the rate is low.

The article offers no reasons, but probably Shandong's mechanization is high because farmers often harvest wheat in the early summer and then quickly plant a corn crop. The two crops need to be harvested and planted quickly and machines used for wheat can also be used for corn. In southern regions, corn is often planted on hillsides and are small, not conducive to mechanization.

Local officials are commanded to adopted a sense of urgency and "crisis" to get busy increasing the degree of corn mechanization. They are to formulate mechanization plans and offer more subsidies for machinery. The national machinery subsidy should be "tilted" toward corn-producing regions and harvesting machinery. Officials are told to enact strict regulations and standards, cracking down on quality problems with machinery. They are instructed to publicize the superiority of mechanized harvest and get farmers excited about mechanization. They should improve services for machinery and organize machinery cooperatives.

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