The Rise of Chinese Agriculture will be the most comprehensive analysis in New Zealand of China’s food and agricultural policies and market characteristics. It will review China’s efforts to construct a modern and professional Chinese agricultural sector as a response to market demands. The conference will bring together a select group of Chinese and international scholars and practitioners to assess agricultural policy goals and market trends, and to analyse the implications of these trends for New Zealand producers. The conference will be of interest to New Zealand policymakers and food producers involved with the Chinese market as well as scholars of agribusiness and of contemporary China.
Chinese policymakers have always considered the agricultural sector to be central to the structural transformation of China’s unbalanced economy and to long-term goals of maintaining social harmony and achieving “all-round moderate prosperity”. At the same time, a large and growing metropolitan population expect greater quality of product, security of supply and to have confidence in the safety of the food they consume. This urban population demand a world-class agricultural sector with strong links to high quality global producers. These two forces are driving unprecedented public-private experimentation and innovation and a reshaping of China’s agricultural sector.
The latest No. 1 Document released by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee and the State Council in early 2016 signaled a relentless focus on ‘accelerating the modernisation of Chinese agriculture’ by improving the supply side, efficiency and quality of the sector and by pushing forward programmes to improve food safety, reduce agricultural inputs and the loss of arable land. The document announced a range of innovations and experiments such as the introduction of a pilot plan to invest in 53 million ha of ‘high quality’ farmland. Similarly, the recently approved 13th Five Year Plan (2016-20) puts forward the goal of nurturing the creation of professional farmers and reforming rural land and land operation systems. The drive towards the modernization of Chinese food production, processing and distribution means China’s agricultural sector has entered a period of profound transformation.
What these changes mean for businesses, governments and food producers outside of China remains unclear. At one level, rationalising the food and agricultural sector in China is a task of extraordinary magnitude and one where Chinese policymakers fully acknowledge the vast challenge of moving away from small-scale, traditional farming systems. Based on previous experience and the progress to date, however, there is every likelihood that these efforts will create new forms of competition and tighter regulatory requirements for international food exporters.
At another level, the modernisation of Chinese agriculture creates opportunities for foreign companies to play a role in the development of the sector either within China or through joint partnerships at home. Of the later, the new focus on maintaining food security through access to global markets presents a shift-change in policymakers’ attitudes to security of supply issues and increases opportunities for various forms of joint investment and partnership. At the same time the rapid expansion of public and private investment in domestic capacity within China presents a medium to long-term challenge for global food producers.