Modern agriculture: coronavirus outbreak spurs high-tech greenhouse boom in China
BBy far the world’s largest vegetable producer, China has used greenhouses for decades, but food supply disruptions caused by coronavirus shutdowns in 2020 have accelerated the development of high-rise glass greenhouse facilities. technology.
To avoid future disruptions, city governments have said they aim to build up reserves of essential commodities and develop distribution and logistics facilities.
A growing affluent middle class willing to pay more for better quality food produced with less pesticides is also fueling the trend, the greenhouse developers said.
The area used for glass greenhouses increased by 28% in 2020, well above the 5.9% increase seen in 2019, and faster than the 6% growth seen last year in areas housing cheaper plastic greenhouses, according to a consulting firm. Richland Sources.
Plastic greenhouses help protect crops, but are considered less effective than glass greenhouses. These can produce high-quality products that are sold directly to retailers, reducing reliance on traditional supply chains.
BYPASS THE MIDDLE MAN
Historically, China’s vegetable production has been concentrated in certain regions and required complex cold chain logistics networks for food to reach wholesale markets in major cities..
The vulnerability of this hub-centric system became apparent in 2020. COVID-19 outbreaks at a seafood market in Wuhan – zero point for the coronavirus pandemic in China – and a large fresh produce market in Beijing caused a disruption in the flow of goods to consumers, leading to food shortages and deterioration of crops.
“The pandemic has prompted the fresh food industry to reduce the number of intermediaries in its supply chain network,” said Gayathree Ganesan, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Built within city limits to reduce distance to buyers, greenhouses are typically collaborative ventures between Chinese real estate companies and greenhouse companies from the Netherlands, a key player in agricultural technology.
FoodVentures greenhouse outside Shanghai is a case in point.
On three football fields long and two stories high, one of the units of the facility houses uniform rows of cherry tomato plants that meander towards the ceiling. She is able to produce up to 120 tons per month of cherry tomatoes.
“Being healthy is already the first protection against any virus, so people care more about what they eat,” Aleven said. “Second,… we want to get rid of the long logistics because we don’t know if it’s still working and that’s what we’ve seen during this pandemic.”
“Locating it as much as possible is the only answer,” he added.
Greenhouse-grown products are usually sold directly to e-commerce platforms and supermarkets, bypassing the many middlemen and wholesale markets that are a traditional feature. of China’s vegetable supply chain.
Carrefour China, 80% owned by Chinese retail giant Suning, said its cooperation with greenhouses around cities has grown steadily over the past two years to meet consumer demand.
Further growth in key cities is likely, with a recent government document showing Beijing aims to more than double its “energy efficient farmland” to more than 300 hectares by 2025.
This growth could strengthen China’s status as a leading producer of vegetables. The country already accounts for 75% or more of the global production of cucumbers, green beans, spinach and asparagus.
Xu Dan, CEO of greenhouse operator Beijing HortiPolaris, said his business benefited last year when a second wave of coronavirus hit Beijing in June, shutting down a major wholesale market and dragging its daily orders. up 300%.
“(At that time) supermarkets were looking for producers who could deliver within 24 hours and they didn’t have time to look for new suppliers,” he said.
But Xu said China may face some hurdles as it embarks on modern agriculture.
“The biggest challenges are the people, the people who have the knowledge to run greenhouses to produce quality vegetables,” he said.
“Most of the farmers are getting older and their mode of production is also obsolete, replacing so many farmers is really a big challenge.”
China vs vegetable production from the rest of the world https://tmsnrt.rs/3wLzHBl
Value and volume of vegetable production in Chinahttps: //tmsnrt.rs/34BuNe8
China’s share of world vegetable production in 2019 https://tmsnrt.rs/3iaqH4J
China’s share of world vegetable production in 2019 interactivehttps: //tmsnrt.rs/3pejbHF
Value of vegetable production in China in 2019 in USDhttps: //tmsnrt.rs/3fFk0WP
Value of vegetable production in China in 2019 in USD interactive https://tmsnrt.rs/3fNjFl7
(Reporting by Emily Chow in Shanghai, additional reporting by Sophie Yu and Dominique Patton in Beijing and in the Beijing newsroom; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
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