Monday, December 31, 2018

Industry Parks to Turn Farms into Factories

Literally turning fields into factories is at the core of China's plan to cover the countryside with "Modern Agriculture Industry Parks" to jump from peasant-type subsistence farming to leading-edge high-tech agriculture. This adventurous great leap utilizes all the fashionable buzz words ("clusters," "incubators," "integration," "innovation," "smart," "green") and the latest engineering. It could turn out to be either a path-breaking approach to agriculture for the 21st century or another white elephant to add to China's herd of ghost cities and bridges to nowhere.
Guangdong Province plans to build 100 province-level
 "modern agriculture industry parks", including this ambitious design.
The first list of 20 "National-level Modern Agriculture Industry Parks" in a dozen provinces was released by the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture and Rural Affairs at a meeting of provincial agricultural officials in Beijing December 30. The industry parks are described as a new driver for agricultural and rural development. Using a "production + processing + sci-tech + brand" model, the parks are meant to integrate entire industry chains, promote science and technology, and market brand-name products. The parks will concentrate factors of production and companies at designated locations to take advantage of "clustering" synergies and serve as a platform for innovation and business creation. Parks containing processing plants and seed research facilities are to be surrounded by "production bases" of vast contiguous fields designed to feed the factories with raw materials. The parks are said to serve as a "vanguard in leading agricultural industrialization" and as a "new template for creating flourishing rural industry."
Zhejiang Province has built two agricultural industry parks near Ningbo.
The one in Cixi City was designated as one of the first 20 national-level parks.
The plan aims to use a "ladder-type" model of setting up national-level agricultural industry parks that will catalyze a cascade of provincial-, city-, and county-level parks. The parks are envisioned to take a year to get up and running, achieve results in two years, and develop a complete system of parks nationwide in five years. (There is no explanation of how this month's "first" list relates to the "first" list of 11 national-level modern agriculture industry parks announced in June 2017--all those parks are on this list--and a "second" list released in September 2017 which contains some on on this month's "first list"--and a completely different list of 21 parks released six months ago.)

China has been building futuristic agricultural facilities since the 1980s, and directives to begin the latest "agriculture industry park" program were included in the 2017 and 2018 No. 1 Documents. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued a circular in May this year giving guidance to local authorities about the program to build agriculture industry parks and instructions to apply for the national list. Government support can be in the form of monetary awards, "financial services," land, personnel support, and electricity and water services, according to the circular.

Last year, Zhejiang Province said it began its modern agriculture park in Zhuji City in 2010 with cumulative investment by the local government of 2 billion yuan ($285 million). Zhejiang's Cixi park has a salt-tolerant rice production base, a 3600-hectare vegetable export base, a large dairy farm, and  grapes that have been awarded a "geographic indication." The Cixi park includes a 3-million-bird egg production project operated by Thailand's CP Group, said to be one of the largest egg farms in China. It claims to have a 5000-head dairy farm operated by 3 workers and 200 hectares of pasture.

Agriculture industry parks are based on a "factory concept" (工厂化理念) that combines scaled-up farming, "intelligent" production methods, and modern logistics. Descriptions of the parks feature diagrams showing the park's layout, photos of large fields and tractors, drones, giant greenhouses, automated processing facilities, paved roads, irrigation and power, "green" production (low-pesticide use, utilization of livestock waste for energy and organic fertilizer), and logistics facilities.

Earlier this year Guangdong Province announced its first batch of 15 provincial modern agriculture industry parks to create "internationally competitive" agriculture. The Guangdong parks receive 50 million yuan of construction aid for each one. Guangdong aims to have 100 parks by 2020.


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