Food prices rise in October

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) released last month's monitoring results for retail food prices, and 80 percent of food products have seen a month-on-month rise, the Chongqing Evening News reported on Wednesday.

The survey considered 31 food products, and 24 had seen a price increase in October, the report said, adding that cucumbers and watermelons topped the list of price increases.

The price of Chinese cabbage and pork was flat in October, while the price of soybean oil, live chickens and eggplants dropped by a small margin, the NDRC reported.

The NDRC's survey covered 36 large and medium-sized cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, the report said.


Potato brings new wealth to W China

The potato, known as "foreign yam" in Chinese, was once planted in China as a life-saving food to survive famines.

But as China moves towards being the center of potato production in Asia, the humble potato is now bringing wealth to some in western China who had been living in poverty.

Chen Chunlan, a potato farmer in Dingxi in northwest China's Gansu province, now lives a satisfying life in her newly-built, well-furnished home.

Chen credits her potato fields for the improved standard of living -- they provide her with an annual income of 70,000 yuan ($10,400).

But Chen clearly recalls the hard times not long ago, when local peasants often had to worry about their next meal.

"We used to grow wheat, but the meager harvest could barely feed us, let alone allow us to save some money," said Chen.

In 2001, destitution even forced Chen to flee Dingxi to try to earn a living in another place.

Dingxi, with its cold and arid climate and hence low agricultural yield, has long been listed as one of China's poorest regions.

In 1995, a severe drought hit Dingxi, and almost everything in the fields withered. But to the locals' surprise, the potatoes survived the catastrophe.

"Potatoes are amazingly drought-resistant and can acclimatize well to Dingxi's agricultural conditions," explained Wang Yihang, the provincial potato expert.

Next year, the Dingxi government launched the "Potato Project" to popularize the cultivation of potatoes to guarantee basic food supply.

Dingxi grows more potatoes than any other city in China, boasting over 200,000 hectares of potato fields, or one third of the city's arable land.

Thanks to the edible tuber, the city no longer has a food supply problem, and attention has shifted to making the "food of the poor" a major export.

"Some freshly harvested potatoes are transported to wholesale markets all over China on special trains, while others are processed in local plants," said Yang Zixing, party secretary of Dingxi city, referring to the city's 20 large factories that turn the smaller, unsuited-for-sale potatoes into starch or potato chips. Previously, these potatoes would have been discarded or used for pig feed.

Some companies have struck deals with Simplot, McDonald's french-fries supplier, to grow and process high-quality potatoes.

The city's potato-processing factories are the source for 25 percent of the local farmers' income.

Dingxi's success story suggests a bright future for potato cultivation in China, as cultivation of the tiny tuber rapidly expands into China's western regions.

"Over 4.7 million hectares of arable land in China are now growing potatoes, up from 2.7 million in the 1980s," said Wang.

"Most of the increased potato cultivation is in China's poor western regions -- the provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi and Qinghai, and the Ningxia Hui autonomous region."

The potato has proven to be more suitable than rice and wheat for cultivation on western China's arid, barren lands, playing a major role in relieving starvation in these regions.

Furthermore, surging demand for potato products like starch can galvanize these less-developed regions to quickly industrialize.

"Potatoes can be made into materials or ingredients that are needed in food processing, papermaking, pharmaceuticals, textiles and many other industries," said Wang.

And although in China potatoes are traditionally not a staple food as they are in many other parts of the world, it is nevertheless an integral part of Chinese cuisine.

Potato-based snacks are also becoming popular in China, especially after western fast food giants like McDonald's and KFC began selling french fries.

Given the market potential and adaptability to arid areas, the potato may well be a new industrial star in China's west.


Made in China, read by the world

What started as a bold idea to radically revamp China Daily many months ago is now just seven days away from becoming a reality.

On March 1, we will launch a dynamic new version of China Daily.
A creative team of top Chinese and international journalists have worked tirelessly to deliver a new product that will better inform the world on Chinacentric and global events.

We have created a fresh visual look that gives you more engaging stories and easier access to information. It is a multicultural product that combines the best design techniques from newspapers, magazines and books in the East and West.

The new China Daily style uses sophisticated typography that combines styles of classicism and modernism in the font world. The fonts are modern versions of classic fonts, and have been specifically drawn for the newspaper medium.

In music, the silence between the notes is often as important as the notes themselves. This is a philosophy adopted in our new design. White space has been dramatically increased to make content easier to read.

Along with the revamped presentation, the editors at China Daily have also taken an introspective look at our content and have focused in on what you want. We will not only bring you the biggest stories in China, but also analyze the how and why, and explain what trends they might reflect and how they affect the world.

Among the many changes in China Daily's content shift you will notice "Cover Story", a daily in-depth report that will cast an investigative eye on China's and the world's most important and controversial topics.

While we examine the big picture, we will be looking at the smaller one, too. Another new feature, "China Face", will shed light on the diversity of China's culture. From villagers to rock stars, "China Face" tells the stories that make up the China.

Our new opinion pages are a place for diversity. We cherish opinions and commentary from all walks of life. This forum for debate, discourse and discussion is designed to help the world understand China and to help China understand the world.

As China continues to rise on the world stage, we will be sending news teams not only throughout China but also across the globe. New bureaus are in the works in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas. Although China Daily will be made in China, it will be read by the world.

Don't miss next Monday's issue of China Daily, which will include a comprehensive guide on how to navigate the new design and content. Join us for the start of an exciting new era on March 1, 2010.


Quality of China's agricultural produce improving

BEIJING, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — The quality of China’s agricultural produce including vegetables, domestic animals and aquatics was improved in 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture said Monday.

The ministry released an annual report based on monitoring results of agricultural products, saying 96.4 percent of vegetables had met safety standards in 2009, up 0.1 percentage points year on year.

The rate was 99.5 percent for domestic animals, up 0.8 percentage points, and 97.2 percent for aquatic products, up 1.5 percentage points.

The monitoring of fruits, mushrooms and tea, for the first time in 2009, found 98 percent, 95.2 percent, and 94.8 percent of products in the three categories met standards.

In 2009, the inspections became more detailed, covered more categories, and were carried out in 259 large and medium-sized cities, compared with only 36 major cities previously, the ministry said.

The ministry said it would step up the control over the use of prohibited pesticides and veterinary drugs in 2010 in order to further improve the quality and safety of agricultural produce.


China Consumes 1/4 World's Luxury Goods

"China will replace the U.S. as the world's second largest luxury goods market this year," said Robert Polet, CEO of Gucci Group. "Last year, the wealthy from Chinese mainland purchased one quarter of the world's luxury goods."

Chinese customers are young and have strong consumption potential for the world's luxury brands. According to relevant statistics, Chinese customers purchased 60 percent of their luxury goods when they traveled overseas. "Traveling abroad has become the important factor boosting luxury goods consumption."

According to Liu Jinshan, director of the Economics Department of Jinan University, three factors accounted for the upward trends in luxury goods consumption in China. Firstly, there is a group of newly affluent people who seek high-level and personalized goods. Secondly, they set an example for huge numbers of white collar workers who are acting as loyal slaves to the luxury brands. Thirdly, children of these rich families can afford the high-end products with their parents’ financial support.

As for the development trend of China's luxury goods market, insiders estimate that Chinese people will spend up to 14.6 billion U.S. dollars on luxury goods in the next five years, marking China's status as the world's largest luxury goods market.

China Products & Goods News