Highly popular in the US, Europe and other Asian countries, organic food is still a relatively new concept in China. However, it seems to be gaining favor among a growing segment of Chinese who out of health and/or environmental concern are willing to spend a little (or a lot) more on certified organic food.
Last week Migrant Worker's Even Pay took us on a visit to Kunming Haobaoqing Organic Farm (昆明好宝箐生态农业园), about 35 km northwest of Kunming, near Tuanjie Village. Located at the east end of the Haobaoqing valley, the 110-mu (96-hectare) farm produces several dozens of varieties of organic-certified vegetables plus organic meats including chicken, rabbit, mutton, pork, duck, goose and even turkey. The farm sells its products in Kunming under the name 'Haobao' (好宝), which means good treasure.
Haobaoqing Farm began applying for organic certification in 2003, which it received in 2005. The stringent requirements of organic certification mandate that the farm re-apply for organic status every year. Over a delicious all-organic meal, Haobaoqing's management discussed the challenges of being an organic farm in Yunnan, the primary difficulty being consumer awareness and understanding of organic food.
According to our hosts, the word organic in Chinese (youji, 有机) is a bit too technical for most consumers, who often think that this chemistry term means the produce has been treated with special fertilizers or is genetically modified. China's 'Green Food' (绿色食品) certification is also a bit confusing for consumers. A-level Green Foods are simply foods whose production meets minimum government standards. Government-approved fertilizers and pesticides can be used in the production of A-level Green Foods. Organic food in China is designated as AA-level Green Food, which requires meeting strict air, water and soil standards.
Five years ago, few Chinese felt compelled to spend extra money on produce and meat that looked similar to what they bought in their local markets. Events in recent years such as SARS, avian flu and a slew of high-profile food safety incidents involving both Chinese brands and international giants including KFC, Nestle and Haagen-Dazs have made hygiene and food safety increasingly important criteria to Chinese shoppers. This shift in priorities has helped propel growth in China's organic market. Organic food also stands to benefit from China's increasing environmental awareness.
As it stands now, there is greater consumer awareness and appreciation of organic foods in China's richer coastal regions. Despite Yunnan being a bit behind the organic curve in China, Haobaoqing's management seemed upbeat about the potential for organic produce and meats in Kunming and Yunnan. One of the most important steps in marketing organic food to the local market is getting people to eat it. To that end, the farm features a restaurant and offers rooms and some basic tour services. Rooms are around the three-star level and run from 88-128 yuan/night. Nobody at the farm speaks English, worth keeping in mind if you are thinking about visiting.
For more information about development of the organic market in China, the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service has published an informative South China Organic Food Market Brief that is well worth reading.
For contact information for the farm, please click here.© Copyright 2005-2020 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.