China will improve internet services and IT infrastructure under the “Internet Plus Agriculture” model to promote integrated development of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries in rural areas and bring farmers more business opportunities that can help increase their income, it was decided at a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on June 27.
The market will play a greater role in implementation of the rural revitalization strategy. Internet technologies will be extensively applied to make agro-production better targeted and effective, and enable many farmers to adapt to shifting market dynamics. All this is crucial to upgrading agricultural performance and raising farmers’ income. The meeting adopted several measures to develop the Internet Plus Agriculture model for integrated rural development, which is a high priority on the Chinese government’s agenda.
President Xi Jinping stressed the need for smart production and IT-enabled operation of agriculture toward the goal of agricultural modernization, and underscored the importance of making IT services more accessible and affordable for the people. Premier Li Keqiang said in the Government Work Report this year that China will advance supply-side structural reform in agriculture and develop the Internet Plus Agriculture model while using multiple channels to increase rural incomes, and that China will encourage the integrated development of primary, secondary and tertiary industries in rural areas.
“The Internet Plus Agriculture model, as an important means for integrated rural development, has made a notable difference in recent years,” Premier Li said. “This model has played a key role in raising farmers’ income and helping tide them over through low prices of agricultural commodities. We should continue to apply it as a matter of high priority.”
Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs show that recent years have seen new forms of industry flourish in rural areas, driven by a boom in local e-commerce. In 2017, online retail sales in rural areas totaled 1.25 trillion yuan ($189.5 billion), of which sales of agro-products approached 300 billion yuan. Over 28 million jobs were created as a result. Meanwhile, a total of 7.4 million people chose to start businesses in rural areas by 2017. More than half of them employed internet technology in their entrepreneurial activities.
“Better tailored to the diverse consumer needs, most online agricultural goods can sell at a higher price than offline,” Premier Li said at the meeting. “The Internet Plus Agriculture model will be critical for creating rural employment, increasing farmers’ income and boosting rural development.”
It was decided at the meeting that IT application will be accelerated in agricultural production. Big data, the internet of things and cloud computing will be harnessed for more efficient agro-production management and for digitized, internet-based and smart agro-production and operation, particularly in areas such as seed breeding, farmland management and pest control.
Information technology will also be more widely used in the distribution of agro-products. The Internet Plus model will be implemented to widen the circulation of agro-products. E-commerce platforms and logistics services need to be improved to better match the demand of e-commerce businesses and supply from small household farmers, family farms and farm cooperatives. Supporting facilities, such as processing, packaging, storage, preservation and cold chain logistics, will be strengthened to improve the marketability of farm produce and resolve the underpricing of quality products.
Government purchase of services will be explored, and private entities will be encouraged to develop new internet-based business models that benefit the farmers and further encourage mass entrepreneurship and innovation in rural areas. Internet infrastructure in rural areas will be improved. Agriculture-related public information and service platforms will be established. More training in IT application will be provided to small household farmers, new types of agribusinesses and owners of agri-tainment, so that smartphones become a new and powerful farm implement.
“Government departments should intensify infrastructure building, particularly in broadband internet, logistics and information systems, and frozen food warehousing,” Premier Li said. “Regulation of and guidance for online platforms must be enhanced. Regulation needs to be prudent yet accommodating, with new regulatory approaches introduced when necessary. It is as important to nurture new business models as it is to protect consumer rights and interests in the process, to boost the healthy development of the Internet Plus Agriculture model.”