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Mechanized farming lifts profits and efficiency

Source: Time: 30 09,2022

As province celebrates harvest festival, rural workers feel the benefit of modern technology

The characters‘feng shou’, which means good harvest, are drawn on a corn drying ground by rural workers in Hejing county to celebrate the fifth Chinese Farmers’Harvest Festival. Xue Jun / For China Daily

Residents in Shanxi province celebrated the fifth Chinese Farmers' Harvest Festival, a national event in late September, when a bumper harvest looked set thanks to good weather and an increasing level of mechanization.

The festival was celebrated with both joy and labor, as farmers throughout the province were harvesting autumn grains across fields totaling 2.74 million hectares.

In the village of Dongpanliang in Xiaoyi city, the Fudong Mechanical Farming Cooperative mobilized all of its six harvesting machines to work on its corn farm spanning about 270 hectares.

"With all the machines, the harvest is expected to be completed in about a week, marking a sharp increase in efficiency compared with manual labor," said Fan Zhong, head of the cooperative, which incorporates local households as its stakeholders.

He added that the machines can separate corn grains from cobs and grind the cobs into animal feed during the harvesting process.

"Thanks to plentiful rainfall and adequate sunshine, we are expecting a better-than-ever yield this year," Fan said. "The per-hectare output is estimated at more than 11 metric tons."

Alongside the corn fields is a farm of 200 hectares for soybeans. The harvest for that would begin about two weeks later, according to Fan.

He said the good harvest can also be attributed to the support of governments at all levels in Shanxi.

The governments' support includes subsidies to farmers and technical services from agricultural officials and experts.

Since the beginning of this year, the provincial government of Shanxi has allocated more than 9 billion yuan ($1.26 billion) to subsidize farmers in the improvement of farming conditions, promoting the use of farming machines, and to encourage the planting of staple crops and cash crops with local characteristics, according to the Shanxi Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

The department has also dispatched a great many officials and experts to rural areas throughout the province to offer technical services and help farmers deal with natural disasters, such as flood and drought.

An official from the department said that promoting the use of farming machines and new sciences and technologies is still a major task in Shanxi's agricultural sector this year despite breakthroughs in 2021.

The utilization rate of farming machines reached 72.6 percent in Shanxi in 2021, meaning that only 27.4 percent of the farming work was done by hand. The official said the machine-use rate is 1.6 percentage points higher than the national average.

He added that new business models like e-commerce are playing an increasingly important role to help farmers manage their operations and boost revenues.

Chen Shao, general manager of Xinyu Agriculture and Husbandry based in the city of Shuozhou, said he is happy because his company recently signed a big deal with a food company.

"Just weeks after the deal was inked, the clients came directly to our farms and loaded our freshly harvested potatoes onto their lorries right away," Chen said. "That move helped us save a lot of money in storage and transportation."

The executive noted that it is a common practice nowadays for farming companies to use online platforms to identify sales partners, display their produce and make transactions.

Jia Ruixiang, a fruit farmer in the village of Shangsitu in Xixian county, said the booming e-commerce industry is now bringing additional benefits to his business.

A local e-commerce company called Northern Latitude 36 Degree offered to be the exclusive dealer of his pears.

"The company has a system to grade the products," Jia said. "I was both surprised and excited that about 10 percent of our pears were rated as 'excellent' and 70 percent as 'good'."

He added that the pears rated as excellent were sold to the dealer for 20 yuan a kilo.

"That's several times the price at which we sold a year ago," Jia said. "We had adopted the same lower price for all the products because we didn't know how to grade them."

Shanxi has reported a steady increase in its agricultural sector so far this year. The output of its summer-harvested grains in Shanxi reached 2.45 million metric tons, growing 0.8 percent from the same period of 2021. Per-hectare yield hit 4.58 tons, increasing 1.1 percent year-on-year and creating a record, according to the provincial agricultural department.

The province reported a revenue of 44.87 billion yuan for the farming, forestry, husbandry and aquaculture sectors in the first half of this year, up 5.6 percent from 2021.

There was also a steady increase in revenue for rural residents. Their per capita disposable income reached 7,099 yuan in the first half of this year. Representing an increase of 6.1 percent year-on-year, the rate is 0.3 percentage points higher than the national average.

By Yuan Shenggao
Wang Xiujuan contributed to this story.