China Moves From Backyard to Farms

CHINA - For more than 2,000 years, China's heartland south of the Great Wall has not seen traveling herdsmen on horseback.
calendar icon 12 August 2008
clock icon 3 minute read
In the northern grasslands, where the land in the Yangtze and Yellow valleys have been entirely used for intensive farming this was commonplace, and the predominant way to produce meat has been through household-based pig farming, reports China Daily.

But not just for family consumption. The most important reason for raising one or two hogs is for their owners to sell them to the urban slaughter houses in order to finance their small farming operations and to buy daily necessities.

During the reform era, for many rural households the first pieces of farm machinery were paid for by selling pigs. Indeed, the poorer a place was, the more its members had to depend on pig farming for any little change in their lives, even though getting a hog to market could be a great trouble.

A farmer carrying his hog to a township fair from his mountainous village in Hubei province in the 1980's, and in more recent times as a pet!

This sight was commonplace in the Chinese countryside in those days. Except for a few urban pockets, most of China was still rural, and most of the residents were struggling hard just to feed themselves. Having a hog to sell might be just the one thing that could lift them from the subsistence level.

Today, while the nation's demand for meat has been rising, an increasing number number of farmers have found other ways to make a cash income. Carrying hogs to the township fair is no longer the only way for rural households to generate cash, as funds from young men and women working in the cities has become a more convenient way help to their relatives in their home villages.

From mid-1990s to 2006, family farmer's spending on productive assets, mainly farm machinery, grew more than 170 percent, while the country's pork production, including that from large State-run farms, rose by 60 percent.

At the same time pig farming has become more dependent on feed supplies, has become mainly concentrated in just a few provinces, such as Shandong, Hunan, and Sichuan and now bears an increasing resemblance to an industry.

In another 30 years, one can reasonably imagine pigs will disappear from most Chinese households - except, however, those being kept as pets.

One of the nation's pioneering pet pigs was also caught by our photographer's lens, this time in Beijing's 798 Complex, a renovated industrial neighborhood for the city's modern artists and art dealers.

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