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November 26, 2011


Japanese Company Tackles Problems in Chinese Agriculture

It was in 2003 that Asahi Breweries, Ltd., a Japan-based leading brewery and soft drink company, was asked for its help in solving problems in Chinese agriculture by China's Shandong Provincial Government. Accepting this request, Japanese companies Asahi Breweries, which had already started business in China, Sumitomo Chemical Co., and Itochu Corp. jointly established Shandong Asahi Green Source High-Tech Farm Co. (Asahi Green Source) in Laiyang, Yantai, Shandong in 2006.

Introducing Japanese advanced agricultural technology, Asahi Green Source now operates a 100-hectare farm using recycling-based agricultural methods, energy-saving facilities, and information technology. It has established a food system that encompasses everything from cultivation through logistics and sales, practices strict quality control, and supplies safe, flavorful, high value-added produce in the country. In an aim to help solve problems in Chinese agriculture, the company has also proposed new agricultural models to help Chinese people acquire better eating habits and has been working to train the next generation of agricultural educators and technical experts. In 2011, Chinese Ministry of Agriculture officially designated the company as a model pasture for the standardization of dairy cow farming. (Source: Asahi Breweries' website).

Despite its efforts, Asahi Green Source has experienced crop yields only about half of those enjoyed by local conventional farming operations, and so has been stuck in the red since its foundation, according to the People's Daily Online news. It seems that Asahi Green Source's method of farming with the very least amount of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is not well understood locally. Amid a flurry of speculation over the Japanese company's motive in tenanting the land, some people reportedly think that the company intends to prospect the farmland for mineral resources or plans to export the crops to Japan.

In summary, however, the People's Daily Online report doesn't discount the company's efforts. The news report points out the problems of Chinese conventional farming practices, which, being dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, have impoverished the land. It sees in Asahi Green Source's corporate principles the ancient and simple, yet sustainable, Chinese philosophy of development, and explains the company's recycling-oriented agricultural model. The report recognizes that the company's practices are reasonable in the long-term, even if they are unprofitable in the short term.

Along with better living standards, more and more Chinese urban consumers are demanding safe, quality food. It is said that the number of people who buy Asahi Green Source's products is growing rapidly. Posted on the company's website are photos of students of the Japanese School of Qingdao enjoying a three-day farm visit in July 2011. A number of days later, a group of over 40 people comprising third-graders and their parents from Jiayuguan Elementary School in Qingdao also visited the company's farm and dairy factory as part of the school's extracurricular program. Hopefully Chinese agriculture itself will change as more and more children learn about the importance of agriculture and environmental conservation.

Original article is written bv Naoko Matsue, Japan-China Civil Society Network (in Japanese) (in Chinese)

This information is provided with a grant from Global Greengrants Fund.


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