Food and agriculture

Food and agriculture

Latest news, in-depth features and opinion on food and agriculture, with a focus on Hong Kong, mainland China and Asia.

China to pay farmers to move away from wild animals
A Chinese province has become the first to say wild animal farmers will be paid compensation if they cease operations and start raising other animals instead. The move comes as the country tries to end a multibillion-dollar industry blamed for endangering public health while also attempting to appease the millions of workers whose livelihoods depend on the trade. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed at least 318,000 people worldwide, has been linked to wild animals carrying a coronavirus that jumped to humans. Under pressure to contain a worsening outbreak in February, the central government said it would ban the trade and consumption of wild animals. China has not publicized the progres
‘Famines of biblical proportions’: How coronavirus threatens food supply
The coronavirus pandemic is putting immense stress on each link of the food supply, from agricultural production to transportation to distribution. Besides taking care of patients suffering from the virus itself, governments around the world are facing the challenge of protecting their population from higher food prices or even shortage. The head of the United Nations food agency warned on April 21 that the pandemic could cause “famines of biblical proportions within a few short months” unless food access is secured. Food supply chain refers to the process of delivering food, from farm to table, includes production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste disposal. In the globalized
Coronavirus could cause ‘disastrous’ global food shortages
The coronavirus pandemic could disrupt global food supply chains and send prices soaring, international agencies and experts have warned. Export restrictions imposed by major producing countries could especially hurt economies with vulnerable supply structures, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said last week. And the UN Committee on World Food Security warned that “disruptions at borders and in supply chains may cause an echo in the food system with potentially disastrous effects.” The warnings highlight the potential damage of the coronavirus outbreak beyond its immediate toll on the at least 700,000 people it has sickened in nearly 200 countries. “Coupled with the curr
Locust threat looms for Chinese farmers still reeling from coronavirus
China has raised its alert to prepare for the possibility that swarms of locusts that have laid waste to agricultural land in Pakistan, India and East Africa find their way across its borders, a government agency said on Monday. “Although experts believe that the risk of swarms entering the country and causing disaster is relatively low, [China] will be hampered in tracking the locusts by a lack of monitoring techniques and little knowledge of migration patterns [if they do] invade,” the National Forestry and Grassland Administration said in an emergency notice on its website. Beijing has convened a task force to watch for, control and – if possible – prevent the arrival of the voracious ins
Chinese farmers are watching their crops rot because of virus lockdown
Jiang Junsheng has already pulped over a ton of garlic, turning the unwanted crop into fertilizer, but he still has to figure out how to dispose of nearly 5.5 tons of sweet potatoes, cabbages and other vegetables at his organic farm in central China. Jiang has tried halving prices for his top-quality goods, but there has been almost no interest in the products in the last month because the coronavirus forced transportation networks to a grinding halt. “In normal years, I would have sold $5,720 worth of vegetables in the three weeks after the Lunar New Year holiday. This year, it’s nearly zero,” the 39-year-old farmer said from his fields in the central province of Henan. Jiang uses an organ
China is exporting tons of killer fungus to fight locusts in Africa
Chinese factories are producing thousands of tons of a “green zombie fungus” to help fight the swarms of locusts in East Africa. Metarhizium is a genus of fungi with nearly 50 species – some genetically modified – that is used as a biological insecticide. Its roots drill through the insects’ hard exoskeleton and gradually poisons them. In China, it was named lu jiang jun, which means “green zombie fungus,” because it gradually turns its victims into a green mossy lump. There are now dozens of factories across the country dedicated to producing its spores and, despite the curbs introduced to stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, many of them have resumed operations and are
Science, espionage and paranoia in US-China relations
A smartly dressed Chinese man was spotted in a field in rural Iowa, in the United States, in autumn 2011. This was enough to raise suspicion in a community that was 97% white and the local police went to check it out. Thus began perhaps one of the stranger cases of industrial espionage in recent years, one that highlights the threat of industrial theft and the overblown atmosphere of fear and mistrust that exists between the United States and China over intellectual property and trade. The field in question was planted with genetically modified seed lines developed by agricultural giant Monsanto, a company that guards its intellectual property – like hybrid seeds and fertilizer – with great
China is developing a huge appetite for cheese and butter
Something smells funny in China. Cheese and other dairy products are not part of the traditional Chinese diet, yet there has been a surge in dairy imports. According to European Commission data, the volume of Europe’s cheese exports to China in the first 11 months of this year was 24% higher than for the whole of 2018, amounting to more than 20,000 tons. Exports of European butter to the country have grown at an even greater pace this year – by 36%. Cheese has historically been alien to the diet in China, where research shows that a great many people are lactose intolerant. However, a 2018 report by China’s National Institute for Nutrition and Health found that Chinese citizens needed encour
Armed to fight drones, China’s pig farmers busted for disrupting flights
Pig farms in China are fighting a high-tech war with gangsters reportedly plotting to profit off a national pork crisis. A pig farm in northeastern China deployed anti-drone equipment following rumors that gangs were trying to spread African swine fever by airdropping the virus into farms. The goal was to scare farmers into selling their livestock at a discount. African swine fever poses no risk to human health but is fatal to pigs. The disease has reduced China’s hog herds by over 40% due to mass culls designed to stop further spreading of the disease. The Chinese authorities uncovered the use of anti-drone devices after a number of pilots complained about losing GPS signals while flying ov
China faces ‘huge challenge’ in living up to US trade promises
China has released fewer details about its trade deal with the US than the American side has – a sign of caution as one government adviser warned it would not be easy for Beijing to live up to its commitments. “For China, committing to and carrying out the phase one agreement is a huge challenge,” Shi Yinhong, a Chinese government adviser and international relations professor at Renmin University, said. “China will need to buy something like $300 billion worth of US products in the next two years and lots more US agricultural goods. Does China need that amount of US soybeans?”  A fact sheet released by Washington on Friday said China and the US had reached a “phase one” agreement on nine are