China will further open up its agricultural machinery market and offer equal treatment to domestic and foreign makers, which will promote fair competition and bring farmers more benefits, officials said.
Starting this year, all agricultural machinery will be eligible for government subsidies regardless of country of origin, provided the equipment meets certain criteria, said Zhang Xingwang, director of the Department of Agricultural Machinery at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
Subsidies for farm equipment purchases were introduced in 2004 to accelerate modernization of the industry and rural areas, said Zhang, during a policy briefing hosted by the State Council Information Office on Dec 19.
Over the past 14 years, the central government has spent more than 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) on farm equipment subsidies to help 33 million farmers buy more than 40 million pieces of machinery, he said.
From 2004 to 2017, the number of large and medium-sized tractors purchased rose sixfold to 6.7 million, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. The agricultural mechanization rate for crop cultivation almost doubled to 66 percent last year from 2004 levels.
Luo Junjie, Equipment Industry Department head at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said the overall revenue of China’s 2,500 key agricultural machinery enterprises hit 450 billion yuan last year.
Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Zhang Taolin said China has become the largest user of agricultural machinery, shifting from its previous reliance on human and animal labor.
In the next few years, the Chinese market for agricultural equipment will be expanded when the Rural Vitalization Strategy is carried out.
By 2025, China aims to have all agricultural machines in use in the country－whether imported or made in China－be of world-leading quality, Zhang said. By then, the country’s overall mechanization rate for cultivating major crops should reach 75 percent, 9 percentage points higher than that in 2017, he said. The rate should be more than 55 percent for hilly terrain, where it’s only about 40 percent now, he said.
However, some problems still impede the sector, Luo said, including insufficient supply of advanced agricultural equipment and overcapacity of low-end equipment producers. The global agricultural machinery industry is moving in a more energy-efficient and technology-driven direction, and China must work out who will remain on farms to work the fields amid a structural shift of rural populations, he said.
In the next step, more support will be given to core technologies and key components to boost innovation, Luo said.
The world’s 10 biggest agricultural machinery makers all have factories in China, and Chinese producers should go global to join the global industry chain and enhance their competitiveness, Luo said.