Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dan Little describes some commercial farms in China

I do not think that there is any one model of farming which suits different areas in India. In some fertile areas a family can manage with two to three acres of land. In some other areas which are not so fertile or weather factos play a substantial role, possibly combining expertise, outside capital and local resources may be useful.  Once a commercial farmer Kotapati Murahari Rao was describing schemes of renting two to three thousand acres, using some machanization and modern seeds (he was also seed merchant who had some fights with Monsanto) for farming which he saw as the future of agriculture in some areas. Dan Little on his trip to China saw some commercial farms which seem similar. From his recent post:
"As part of this trip I was able to take a short excursion to Henan Province to get exposure to some important developments in Chinese agriculture. We visited two large commercial farms specializing in organic vegetables. The first farm occupies about two thousand acres, assembled through agreements with peasant farmers and local government. The corporation does not "own" the land but has rights of use for five-year periods. It employs about one thousand farm workers, often from the families of the original farms that gave been consolidated. (I estimated about two hundred people working in the fields we saw.) The produce is of high quality and farm management is highly professional. It also produces wheat on rotation with vegetable fields. This farm is one of about eight farms of similar size owned by the company in different provinces "to balance risk and seasonality". The company is actively exploring establishment of a similar farm in California. The other farm was similar in size but was described as a cooperative in which peasant farmers maintained a larger degree of involvement in the farm process. This farm will produce specialty items including fruit, vegetables, and blueberries. 

This seems like a good indication of one likely future for Chinese agriculture: consolidated land, moderate level of mechanization, expert management, high productivity. Our group was able to talk with a local man in a nearby village, the uncle of one of the faculty hosts. He was a former headmaster of the village school who had returned to farming after retirement. His home in the village was concrete block, nicely furnished with five rooms and a small courtyard. We asked him whether the peasants whose land had been absorbed by the consolidation for these large farms were satisfied. He was adamant they were because it permitted some level of income from the lease while permitting young people to leave the village for higher income in the urban sector (as part of China's large class of migrant workers in urban industry and construction).'

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