Internet, e-commerce modernising agriculture sector in China

  • PTI, Beijing
  • Updated: Aug 02, 2015 17:32 IST

The internet aided by e-commerce is helping boost the income of Chinese farmers and tranforming the backward agricultural sector into a lucrative modern industry.

For Zhang Guoqin, growing crops sometimes simply needs a few clicks of the mouse.

In northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, he monitors his rice fields on computer screens. He uses a system of sensors and automatisation which takes a lot of the toil and inefficiency out of his business.

For example, his fields are irrigated automatically if sensors detect that they need it.

"Thanks to the data, we are able to track the conditions of crops, assess nutrient levels and forecast disasters," Zhang told state-run Xinhua news agency.

Such innovation is a new trend in Chinese farming, a welcome change of direction for a rural economy that has long been seeking modernisation.

Watching the positive changes being brought about, China's cabinet unveiled an "Internet Plus" action plan last month targeting integration of the internet with traditional sectors to make them smarter and more efficient.

Along with manufacturing, agriculture was on the top of the list. Farming in China has been booming for over three decades.

The summer grain output reached a record high of 141.07 million tonnes in 2015 after 11 consecutive years of increase.

Though harvests were good, inefficient sales channels, a shrinking labour population and lack of access to loans have been squeezing farmers' earnings and dragging down the rural economy, the report said.

In 2014, the per capita disposable income of rural residents rose 9.2% to $1,720 although 70.17 million rural Chinese earned an annual sum of less than $385, the official poverty line.

However, the internet, especially mobile networks, have provided agriculture with a new vision.

By the end of 2014, nearly 30% of China's rural population were online.

Given the bright outlook, internet companies and e-commerce giants are thronging to take a bigger share of the agricultural pie., China's largest online shopping platform, has even launched an agricultural channel.

Its internet conglomerate, Alibaba, also ambitiously plans to invest 10 billion yuan ($1 billion) into 100,000 new service centres in Chinese villages in the next three to five years to help train farmers in using internet.

However, there are still bottlenecks that have to be addressed to facilitate the national ambition of upgrading agriculture.

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