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The "Vegetable Basket" Project


To relax the rather short vegetable supply, the Ministry of Agriculture put forward a complete set of proposals in July 1988, called simply, "Vegetable Basket Project". By rationalizing prices of non-stable foodstuff and with systems engineering available, the project aims to improve the production and circulation system and exploit and utilize national resources at a reasonable rate. It would readjust the unstable food structure, popularize practical techniques, strengthen the construction of infrastructure and increase the unstable food level in a progressive fashion. The project started to be put into practice in 1989. In the first five-year project period, 14.05 billion yuan in investment was used as planned for the scientific and technical development of both central and local productive bases for meat, eggs, milk, fish products and vegetables, to build improved breeding bases and fodder processing and service systems. With these efforts, in China's large and medium-sized cities with a population total of around 100 million, per capita consumption of meat and aquatic products should reach 72 kilos and 21 kilos respectively and fresh vegetables should be guaranteed year round.

Targets Envisaged in the Project:

(1) Readjustment of the structure of non-stable foodstuffs, a step by step realization of varied consumption of meat, and a raise in the consumption ratio of grain-saving and high-efficiency poultry, rabbit, eggs, milk and fish products. By 1992 the proportion of pork should have been reduced to 78 percent from the original 83 percent in gross meat output, poultry meat should rise to 12 percent and the proportion of fine vegetables should be raised when popular vegetables are guaranteed.

(2) Six steps for enhancing infrastructure construction. A. To set up and perfect the improved breeding system. On the basis of rectifying the present 1,100 plus breeding stock farms, a group of state-level breeding stock farms will be transformed and extended, and breeding centers for chickens, hens, lean pork, milking cows as well as vegetable centers will be set up. B. To establish a group of modern factories, such as feed additive factories, fish compound feed factories, bone-marrow powder factories and mills. C. While making technical innovations in the present biological pharmaceutical factories and renewing equipment, a group of new enterprises for producing veterinary chemicals will be formed, thus raising production capacity and quality in the field. D. To speed up the renewal and innovation of near-water fishing vessels and to develop deep-sea fishing. E. To set up a group of low-temperature swift cold storage facilities, basic industrial seedling gardens, vegetable grading and vegetable primary packing factories. F. To enhance the construction of a technical service system.

(3) To set up an economic cooperation service system. Based on the original non-stable foodstuff producing centers, new non-stable foodstuff producing economic cooperative regions should be set up with close links with central cities, thus forming a stable relationship for production and sale. Manufacture and sale should be guided to enter the market gradually and both sides shoulder common market risks.

The five tentative ideas: A. To realize the goal of poultry and egg self-sufficiency in cities. Taking one city's population of a million people as a unit, a poultry farm would be set up with a productive scale of 100 million layers and 200 million chickens. B. To build 104 pig raising bases and a central plain beef raising belt to increase the level of pork self-sufficiency in cities. C. Plastic sheds covering 20,000 hectares of land would be set up in north China, while in the south a subtropical winter vegetable producing belt would be constructed as well as a summer and autumn vegetable producing belt in Shanxi, Shandong and Henan provinces. Products from all these areas should compensate the slack seasons. D. Large and medium-sized cities would realize 70 percent milk self-sufficiency. The tenth cow base in the northeast, (eastern Hebei and north of Jiangsu provinces) would be set up. E. To strengthen the construction of bases for sea and freshwater breeding in large and medium-sized coastal cities and 13 important freshwater fish breeding areas.

(4) To speed up the popularization of ten scientific and technical achievements. A. Compound fodder with ensilage and ammoniated stalks. B. Introducing and raising improved varieties of pig, chicken, cow, fish and vegetables, as well as breeding techniques for the improved varieties. C. Comprehensive disease-prevention and treatment. D. Cooperative breeding techniques for pig and poultry. E. Cooperative raising techniques for grassland and herbivores. F. High-yields for the raising of fish, shrimp and crabs. G. Applied agricultural plastic film in non-stable foodstuff production. H. Industrial seedling technique. I. Techniques for maintaining vegetable freshness, processing, storing, sale and transportation. J. Intensive management techniques.

From 1988 until the beginning of the 1990s, the Vegetable Basket Project solved the problem of a shortage in market supply. The second-term Vegetable Basket Project started in 1995, containing the following four major characteristics:

* The expanded construction of production bases and development of compartmentalization, scale, installation and standardization.

* Urban and rural regions joined in building the Vegetable Basket Project. Not only city suburbs but other agricultural areas also played an active role in growing vegetables. A group of national vegetable-growing bases was formed.

* Increased scientific and technical content, optimized structure and additions of new product varieties. In order to meet the needs and demands of citizens calling for "fresh, live, high quality, nutritious, convenient and insect-free products," improved seeds and better production methods were almost universally adopted in vegetable growing areas, raising the output and quality.

* Probes into the new method of circulation and active encouragement of integrated management in production, supply and sale and in the trade-industry-agriculture system.

1988 to 1997 saw a smooth run in the "Vegetable Basket Project" and continuously increasing products. This fundamentally altered the long-standing shortage of non-stable foodstuffs. In 1997 the gross output of meat, eggs, milk, fish products, vegetables and fruit reached respective totals of 62 million, 21 million, 8.1 million, 36 million, 313 million and 50 million tons. Compared with 1978, the separate average annual increase rates were 10.8 percent, 13.5 percent, 7.9 percent, 12.4 percent, 7.2 percent and 11.6 percent. The per capita consumption of meat, eggs, milk, fish, vegetables and fruit reached 50.2 kilos, 17 kilos, 6.6 kilos, 29 kilos, 253 kilos and 40.4 kilos respectively. Except for milk and fruit, the per capita consumption of all other "Vegetable Basket" products have reached or even surpassed world levels. Over the ten years the central finance system invested 3.03 billion yuan in the production, storage and processing of "Vegetable Basket" products. Local, collective and farmers' individual investment also contributed. Altogether 591 such large scale projects have been built, 213 stalk livestock raising demonstration counties have been developed and 80 pastoral demonstration projects exploited. By 1997, 877 livestock and poultry product producing bases had been built throughout China, among them were 491 lean-pork bases, 88 beef raising centers, 195 sheep farms and 103 bases for raising poultry, rabbit, bees and other specialty animals. Besides this, 1.57 million additional hectares were covered by more than 300 county-level aquatic product bases. Also during the same period, over 460 county-level vegetable planting bases, each with over 6,666 hectares of cultivating land was set up.

The implementation of the "Vegetable Basket Project" has promoted the construction of the market system. A "Vegetable Basket Project" market system has formed nationwide, with centralized wholesale at its core, linking production bases and stabilizing the retail market. By the end of 1997, about 4,000 agricultural non-stable foodstuff wholesale markets had been built across the country.


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