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Agriculture in Shandong Marches Into Global Market
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Shandong Province on China's east coast has been leading the country in agriculture for many years. Recognized nationwide as China's Agricultural Champion, Shandong exported a high rate of agricultural products in 2001. Now it is regulating its agricultural industry to help the province more accustom to the fierce competition that can be expected in the global market after China's WTO entry. From January to November of last year, Shandon's exports of agricultural products achieved an increase of 28.7 percent compared with the same period of year 2000.

Meanwhile, Shandong's agricultural products -- vegetables, meat, eggs and other products -- are fairly competitive in the domestic market, and also are sold to other provinces.

With China's WTO entry, Shangdong has taken action on both the international and home fronts to secure an even stronger market foothold. Shandong which exports more textiles than anything else -- ranks first in China in agricultural exports. Both peanuts and poultry meat from Shandong account for more than half of the whole country's exports. Shandong's export of food coloring takes up 60 percent of world trade in this area.

Shandong's strengths lie in its labor-intensive industries. Take fruit production, for instance. Shandong's prices for apples and pears are 40 to 80 percent lower than internationally set prices. Even if the import tariff were to be decreased to 10 percent of the current standard, Shandong still would have a prime advantage. However, the land-intensive industries are in a comparatively worse situation. Based on this -- while guaranteeing the food supply of the province -- Shangdong controlled its planting of grain and cotton in 2001, decreasing the planting of grain to 928,000 mu (61866.67 hectare) and the planting area for cotton from its peak of 2,500 mu (166.67 hectare) to 1,100 mu (73.33 hectare) in 2001.

For those industries related to vegetables, fruits, marine products, livestock products and floristry, more measures are being taken in Shandong to strengthen production and competitiveness. Last year, Shandong used its advantage of low labor cost to attract many foreign enterprises to its coastal cities to develop the processing and export of marine products. To save production costs, in the past, most of these enterprises were located in North America and South Africa where they processed marine products harvested from neighboring seas.

Quantity was key for Shandong Province to win the domestic market in agricultural products in the past. But in today's international market, quality becomes decisive for a win-win situation. Therefore, Shandong is working hard to develop high-quality agriculture. The slogan for Shandong agricultural development used to be "high production, high efficiency and high quality," but now, high quality has been put in first place. Some fine strains of agricultural products have been imported from foreign countries. Take ocean scallops, for instance. Various kinds of scallops from over 40 countries have been imported so far. Meanwhile, a series of advanced planting and processing techniques have been developed, such as the bagging of fruits so they look and taste fresh. So far, Shandong Province has produced some 10 billion bag-wrapped fruits -- all carefully selected, big and consistent in size.

The city of Shougang, the biggest vegetable-producing area in Shandong Province, exports some 500 kinds of vegetables to the United States, Japan, Israel, Holland and over 30 other countries around the world. And Shougang's well-established agricultural base continues to come on strong. So far, vegetable products planted in all of the province has been developed to 800000 mu (about 53333 hectare), with annual vegetable production reaching 4 billion kilograms. Besides being exported overseas, these vegetables have been sold to more than 200 cities throughout China.

Increased production requires increased market potential. Shouguang has hosted two major vegetable expositions in the two years since 2000. More than 20 Chinese provinces, 74 countries or regions of the world have participated in the expositions that have attracted some 660,000 visitors. During the exposition, 95 projects to attract investment have been agreed to with a potential cooperation benefit estimated at US$0.32 billion.

(新华网 [Xinhua News Agency] January 9, 2002 by Zhang Baixin, Dong Zhenguo, translated by Feng Shu for china.org.cn)

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