China has become the world's largest producer of fruit and vegetables, a senior agriculture official said yesterday.
Ye Zhenqin, deputy director of the Planting Industry Management Department affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture, made this statement when speaking at an international conference on fruit and vegetable processing technology in the port city of Yantai, Shandong Province.
Reviewing the development of the fruit and vegetable industry over the past decade, Ye said that China's production of apples and pears rank first in the world, while production of citrus fruit ranks third following Brazil and the United States.
In 1999, China accounted for 32.8 percent of all land used in the world for planting vegetables, and China' orchards comprise 21.3 percent, she said.
As for production, she said, China's vegetable and fruit output contributes 64.4 percent and 14 percent of the world's total respectively.
In mid-1980s, China initiated reforms for the fruit and vegetable industry, in which markets and prices were liberalized. Since then, the industry has been forging ahead vigorously.
Over the past 10 years, fruit and vegetables have become a key part of the rural economy rather than an insignificant sector.
At present, the output value of fruit and vegetables totals 350 billion yuan (US$ 42 billion). In agriculture, the planting of fruit and vegetables are only below grain crops in quantity.
The official said that exports of China's vegetables account for one third of the world's total. Traditionally, China's vegetables were only exported to Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, but now have made it to markets in southeast Asia and European countries.
The deputy director said that the domestic market has sufficient supplies and even an oversupply of vegetables and fruit some years, compared with the situation when people were short of supplies years ago.
At present, there is a supply of 330 kilograms of vegetables per capita, more than twice the world's average level. Meanwhile, there is 7.5 times the amount of fruit per person than there was 10 years ago.
The official revealed that China is taking measures to improve the quality of vegetables and fruit, and production efficiency, and to prevent producing an excessive supply in certain seasons and in certain regions.
Delegates from more than 50 countries are attending the meeting which is hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Committee for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), several ministries of China, the Shandong provincial government as well as the Chinese Academy of Engineering.