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China’s countryside reaps tourism profits from agriculture

As China’s economy faces continued downward pressure and settles into a “new normal” stage, supply-side structural reforms in agriculture are becoming ever more important. Many villages in China are developing leisure agriculture to boost the reform and increase the local incomes.

Away from the city’s hustle and bustle. For many city dwellers, a visit to the countryside is full of treasures.

This is farm tourism, sometimes known as agritainment, or leisure agriculture. Tourists can pick all sorts of vegetables from local gardens, and fish from the pond. This lets city dwellers enjoy a rural life in the weekend or during the holidays. They also get some tasty, fresh meals.

Deng has been running this business for 14 years. It’s just a 10-minute drive away from a popular tour destination — Daying Dead Sea, in Daying county, Sichuan province. Deng has used this “location advantage” to attract 400 visitors each year.

It was back to 2002 when Deng and a few of his friends from his hometown started the business. Deng says food here is all green and safe. With the Spring Festival just around the corner, he hopes profits will double.

Deng said, “We have many guests from nearby cities and provinces. After we started the business, many more restaurants opened here and boosted our profits.”

The business is located in the Suining city village of Qiqiao, which has built up six restaurants, as well as agriculture science and technology demonstration districts. In 2014, it welcomed more than 300,000 tourists. The agriculture-plus-tourism development model has increased villagers’ annual income by 33 percent.

“In Suining city, we see the important role of tourism in expanding domestic demand, structural reform, promoting employment, alleviating poverty, and benefiting local residents’ livelihoods,” said Yang Ying, standing member of Suining Municipal Committee.

The city plans to invest more in tourism construction. And Sichuan province plans to set up an agricultural development fund that could reach up to $5 billion. It is expected the overall income of leisure agriculture will reach $110 billion this year.

Qiqiao village represents the tip of the iceberg among many Chinese villages by developing leisure agriculture to promote agricultural and tourism supply-side structural reform. By doing this, it’s also helped to alleviate poverty, promote the local economy and lay an important foundation for urbanization.

Premier Li Keqiang emphasized tourism earlier this year in May, during the First World Conference on Tourism for Development. Premier Li said tourism is part of a new economy that increases consumption and adds value to agricultural products. China has drawn up plans to make tourism a major part of structural reforms to spur growth.

“Developing supply-side structural reforms in agriculture includes the following measures: Adjusting the structure, increasing the quality of agri-products, boosting the convergence of agriculture and tourism, lowering costs, and improving the infrastructure. But I think the most important adjustments need to happen to the structure of the industry,” said Zhang Kejun, professor of Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences.

Agriculture and tourism are both important pillars of the Chinese economy. Experts believe more beneficial policies on the development of agricultural reforms will be coming out of this year’s Central Rural Work Conference.