Friday, July 19, 2013

State Farms Cultivate Overseas Land

China's Ministry of Agriculture announced that the country's state farm system will cultivate 3.5 million mu (575,000 acres) of farmland overseas by the end of 2013. That includes 3 million mu of grain and oilseeds, with production of 1 million metric tons. Another major overseas crop is natural rubber which was grown on 300,000 mu of overseas farms, including 50,000 mu of newly-acquired land.

 By comparison, China has nearly 1.8 billion mu of domestic farmland. Its domestic grain, tuber and soybean output was 589 mmt last year and imports totaled 70 mmt. So this accounts for a tiny share of China's food supply so far.

The article describes China's state farm system as the country's "national team" in agricultural production. Its output grew 10.8 percent last year (more than double the growth of overall agricultural output). It claims $4.4 billion of exports last year, up 11.8 percent. It claims to have a 12-million head inventory of pigs, up 13.6 percent in the first half of 2013.

The state farm system , the "reclamation bureau" in Chinese because the farms were started in remote areas--usually along borders with Russia and other countries--where they "reclaimed" barren land. The largest component is in Heilongjiang Province near the Russia border. Other concentrations are on Hainan Island and provinces bordering southeast Asia.

A May Xinhua article reports that Anhui province's state farm system set up a joint venture with the Zimbabwe government for "general agricultural development." It operates 3 farms directly and 1 on an agency basis, a total of 5000 hectares. It grows wheat, corn, soybeans, and tobacco. Seeds and machinery were imported from China and yields are similar to those in China. In 2012 the company signed a contract for the next stage of the project which will expand to 50,000 hectares with investment of 1.5 billion yuan (over $240,000). In a third stage, it plans to expand even more.

It is said this project has gotten a lot of attention from government and companies. The Zimbabwe project is described as part of China's 12th five-year plan. There is no mention of where the output of the project goes. The project is reported to employ 600 local people (8 hectares per person) and holds training classes.

Another article describes the Guangxi state farm system's project in Vietnam that makes cassava starch with raw materials from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The project has faced challenges from unreliable electricity and water infrastructure and bad weather. The Guangxi group also has had a project to grow sisal and cassava in Burma since 2006.

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