China is to nearly double the capacity of its processing industry of farm produce in the next three years, making it competitive in the international market.
According to a national meeting on the processing industry of farm produces, the industry will further tap into the country's unique resources so as to better respond to market demand. By 2005, more than 55 per cent of the farm produces will be processed before reaching the market, comparing with the current ratio of 30 per cent.
The Chinese government is to launch a national programme of developing the farm produce processing industry this year. The programme is aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the farming industry after China entered the WTO [World Trade Organisation], creating new jobs for millions of rural labourers and increasing the income of farmers who make up over 70 per cent of the country's population.
Minister of Agriculture Du Qinglin told the meeting that the Chinese government will concentrate resources on developing nine different farming zones that are highly specialised in processing specific produces. The nine specialised processing zones include a quality wheat belt in east China, a corn and bean belt in north and northeast China, a rape seed belt along the Yangtze River, a beef and mutton belt in central China, a milk belt in northern part of China, an apple belt around the Bohai Bay and in northwest China, an orange belt in southern part of China, an aquatic belt along big rivers and lakes and a tea belt in major tea growing areas.
In the next few years, the Ministry of Agriculture and other government departments will support the expansion of a group of farm produce processing companies in terms of supply bases, research and development, technical renovation and marketing.
Official figures showed that China has become the largest producer of grain, edible oil crops, fruits, meat, eggs and aquatic products in the world. However, the country processes only 30 per cent of the total output, compared with the ratio of more than 80 per cent in industrialised countries.
The Ministry of Agriculture predicts that by 2005, the total new value that the country's farm produce processing industry creates every year will reach Yuan 3,400 billion yuan (€419bn). This means an annual growth of 10 per cent in the next three years.
In order to reach this target, the country will focus on establishing a secured system of farm produce supply, a system of processing enterprises, a system of quality control and safety, a system of technical innovations and a system of policy support in conformity with the WTO rules.
Du said China is accelerating the development of a quality control and safety system in line with international practice. The country is perfecting quality standards of processed farm goods and will adopt a label system that marks the origination, quality and standards of these products.
Du added that the country will develop an all-round monitoring system of quarantine, chemical residue test, environmental survey and quality control of processed farm produces, adding that a group of test centres will be established all over the country.
Du also said that China encourages the adoption of advanced quality and safety standards of foreign countries and is actively pushing forward the national standards to international levels. He said China will also accelerate the process of quality certification of processed farm produces, especially foodstuffs.