Chinese festival marks nation's hard-won bumper harvest
A visitor poses for a photo with figures made with straw during an event celebrating the Chinese Farmers' Harvest Festival in Datong Town of Jiande City, east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 22, 2020. [Xinhua/Weng Xinyang]
BEIJING -- Hundreds of millions of Chinese farmers celebrated the third harvest festival on Tuesday, as the country expects a bumper harvest despite the impacts of COVID-19 and severe floods.
The Chinese leadership has described the anticipated autumn harvest as "hard-won" after the country saw severe floods in the Yangtze River, disruptions by the epidemic, droughts in the north, as well as typhoons.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has said this year's autumn grain production is generally guaranteed, citing better-than-expected pest control and quick recovery from the summer floods.
It said the area of autumn grain, which accounts for the bulk of the yearly grain production, is estimated to reach 85.6 million hectares this year, an increase of more than 333,333 hectares.
The optimism is palpable in China's major breadbasket regions, where farmers marked the festival with songs and dances, product exhibitions, carnivals, and ceremonies to award "best-performing farmers."
In Yuncheng City of north China's Shanxi Province, the main venue of this year's harvest festival celebration, farmers and business people from nine provincial-level regions of the Yellow River basin attended farming-themed activities and promoted their products at exhibitions.
Shi Yaowu, president of a Shanxi-based millet processing company, said local millet farmers were expecting "probably the best harvest in a decade," as the province was exempted from major natural disasters this year.
Gai Yongfeng, a farmer in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, won the title of "King of Soybeans in Heilongjiang," in a ceremony in Fujin City.
The COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year had threatened to disrupt Gai's plan to sell soybeans and corn, the money from which Gai relied on to buy seeds and fertilizer for a new round of farming.
"Fortunately, the government opened a 'green channel' for us to sell grain and an online platform to order agricultural materials, so our crop cultivation went on smoothly," Gai said.
HEIGHTENED SUPPORT, BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE
Known as China's "grain barn," Heilongjiang boasts the country's largest plantations of rice, corn, and beans. Local officials said the autumn harvest was almost certain despite three typhoons in recent months.
Apart from government aids, Gai said more advanced agricultural techniques and better-quality seeds helped local farms withstand natural disasters.
The provincial government said nearly 5 million pieces of agricultural machinery were employed this spring, together with the implementation of stricter farm management and higher standards.
Liu Chun, the president of a local agricultural machinery cooperative in Fujin, was leading farmers to drain water from rice paddies after heavy rain unleashed by Typhoon Haishen in early September.
"Our crops used to be soaked in water after heavy rain for a long time. But we can drain water quickly this time thanks to the upgraded drainage ditches, so a good autumn harvest is guaranteed," said Liu.
Strong government assistance, construction of farming infrastructure, and promotion of farming technologies are also credited for the relatively fast recovery in many flood-devastated regions.
Anhui Province, located in the Yangtze and Huaihe river basins, is one of the worst-hit areas by floods. As floodwater receded, Wang Qiquan, a farmer in Funan County, was preparing his croplands for cabbage seedlings.
Living in Kanghu, a village along the Huaihe River, Wang relied on his 1-hectare farmland to lift his family out of poverty in 2016. This year, the field of rice and watermelons were all inundated by floodwater, casting a shadow on his livelihood.
To help farmers recoup some losses, the local government purchased the cabbage seedlings from east China's Shandong Province and distributed them to farmers for free.
"The vegetables will be harvested in two months. That won't affect the wheat planting in October," said Zhang Tao, a township agricultural official who was helping Wang replant.
Starting in 2018, the Chinese farmers' harvest festival coincides with the autumnal equinox each year, which is one of the 24 solar terms of the Chinese lunar calendar and usually falls between Sept. 22 and 24 during the country's agricultural harvest season.
China's total grain output consists of three parts -- early rice, summer grain, and autumn production. Autumn grain crops, which include corn and middle- and late-season rice, account for the bulk of the grain production.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China had bumper harvests of both summer grain and early rice in 2020, marking year-on-year increases of 1.21 million tonnes and 1.03 million tonnes, respectively.
The summer grain output, in particular, reached a historic high of 142.81 million tonnes this year in the 17th consecutive year of a bumper harvest.
China's autumn harvest this year is of special significance as COVID-19 continues to rage globally, prompting some countries to partially ban grain exports, a development that heightened food security concerns, said Li Guoxiang with the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Almost 690 million people worldwide went hungry in 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020, according to a UN report.
"China is making great contributions to, and boosting the confidence of, global food security, by ensuring food supplies to its own 1.4 billion population," said the researcher.