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  Chinese Way>Life

Nostalgia fuels demand for honest food in China

2013-03-18 11:23:11


Its popularity is also directly related to the series of food safety scandals that have surfaced in the last few years, a concern that was also raised at the current parliamentary meetings in Beijing.

Amid the ugly images conjured by food safety scandals, the pictures of clean, fresh and uncontaminated vegetables and meat sources posted on the weibo gave promise that a healthy lifestyle was still within reach.

The Beijing Country Fair now helps its farmer-producers gross a total of about 10,000 yuan ($1,609) each time it meets. It is a modest figure, but for them, it is at least a positive move up a steep learning curve.

Beijing Country Fair, started in 2010 as an art project, has evolved to become a well-supported weekly market for CSA produce.

Both farmers and producers are learning the way forward to an organic production cycle is blocked by many hurdles, especially certification.

Much of their organic produce is not certified at the moment, opening them up to attacks by critics who are skeptical about their motives.

Qi Dafu, one of the main organizers, says the market may actually change its name soon to better reflect the situation.

Despite her confidence that the farmers who join the market each week adhere strictly to organic principles, Qi says small farms simply cannot afford the certification process.

For example, if a farmer enlisted the services of a Nanjing-based national certification center - one of the more authoritative among 23 qualified bodies in the country - yearly certification costs, including application fees, and the investigating officer's travel expenses, board and lodging, would total at least 14,000 yuan for each crop of each produce.

For the small vegetable farmer who needs to plant a variety of produce, certification is almost impossible, while a larger rice producer would have to spend about 40,000 yuan if he wants his two harvests a year certified.

Meanwhile, according to Wu Wenliang, dean of the school of resources and environment sciences at the China Agricultural University, the situation is aggravated by some certification bodies that are willing to compromise standards - for money.

Such unscrupulous organizations have already attracted the attention of the authorities and the government has promised stricter supervision.

Even so, Wu adds, it is still hard for certification to be 100 percent accurate since, on the flip side, there are also dishonest producers who can fake measures that investigators cannot easily detect.

For producers like Sunlin Farm owner Lin Jian, the unreliable process of organic certification has simply added to his doubts about certification itself.

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