Chinese farmers are likely to increase organic output in a bid to find lucrative new export markets, reports the China Daily. Increasingly high non-tariff barriers by importing countries have made it hard for China to export many food crops, and turning organic may be the answer.
"China has pinpointed environmentally friendly food as a vanguard to break the barrier and boost agricultural exports," Liang Zhichao of the China Green Food Development Centre (CGFD) told the paper.
Tea was just one of the many agricultural products affected by changes to the import rules, despite a lowering of tariffs following China's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). China's tea exports to the European Union (EU) dropped by 37 per cent last year on an annual basis, due to intensified import criteria, the paper said.
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation (MOFTEC) officials said some developed countries have multiplied import examination items and heightened the requirements set for imports from China.
The paper said that United Nations (UN) statistics showed that US$7.4 billion of exports from China covering agriculture and other industries had been "stifled" each year by environmental barriers. Whether countries in the West would see it as "stifling" is another matter - especially in the light of recent concerns over the presence of banned antibiotics in a number of products originating in China - but for whatever reason, China's farmers have realised that a change of heart is necessary if imports are to grow.
The CGFD has been authorised by the Chinese government to ensure that organic food is authentic, and Liang said that China's organic food matches the strict quality and quarantine standards of developed countries.
China aims to raise the output of its environmentally friendly food to 45 million tons by 2005 from 10 million tons last year, and has created a nationwide system of providing authentication monitoring, technical services and quality inspection of organic food producers, whose products are specifically regulated by 80 clauses in State requirements, the report said.
Related departments are drafting a law on the quality and safety of agricultural products that is expected to hold producers and dealers of harmful crops legally responsible.
The Ministry of Agriculture oversees more than 3.2 million hectares of farmland, pasture and waters in its effort to make agricultural products organically safe.