Farm produce certificates offer quality guarantee for Chinese customers

Citizen selects vegetables at a supermarket in Changchun city, Northeast China's Jilin province, July 8, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

YINCHUAN - Ren Aimin runs dozens of stores selling fruits and vegetables in Yinchuan, capital city of Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region. Recently, he has been visiting two of them more often than the others.

The two stores have engaged in a pilot labeling program, tagging tomatoes, grapes, eggplants and other agricultural produce with special certificates. Since the two stores began tagging products in late March, daily sales have increased by approximately 15 percent.

The certificates show the origins of products and the contact information of producers. They also contain pledges from producers that no prohibited pesticides, veterinary drugs or additives were used during production.

Ren began his business by selling fruit from a three-wheeled cart in the late 1980s. As his business grew over the years, he has become increasingly aware that higher-quality products always sell faster.

"Previously, customers could only judge the quality of farm produce by observing and touching. Now, with the certificates, they know more about their quality," said Ren.

In late 2019, China began to pilot the edible agricultural produce certification system across the country to ensure food safety, in addition to previous measures such as strengthening pesticide residue testing and tracking the origins of farm produce.

The certificates serve as a quality guarantee from producers, who pledge to be responsible for the use of pesticides during production and the quality of their products, said Wang Ying, director of the Yinchuan Agricultural Products Quality Testing Center.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, 2,760 counties across the country had piloted the system by early December in 2020, issuing a total of 220 million certificates. More than 46.7 million tonnes of certified agricultural products have hit the market.

"We are different from our parents in that we are willing to spend more on food of better quality," said Wang Wenfei, a resident of Taiyuan, capital city of North China's Shanxi province. "Certified agricultural produce will certainly be my first choice in the future."

Farmers have embraced the certification system as it helps boost the sales potential of their products.

At Ningxia Nature Star Agricultural Science and Technology Co., Ltd., farm produce is sampled for pesticide residue testing before being tagged with certificates and shipped to marketplaces.

"Our vegetables are grown in line with organic standards. We are willing to tag them with certificates to provide consumers with extra reassurance," said Li Licong, the company's general manager.

To ensure the certificates are not pieces of paper with empty promises, food safety watchdogs in China are making efforts to strengthen supervision.

In Yinchuan, spot checks are conducted on certified products and, if problems are found, they can be traced back down the production chain.

"Gradually, all my stores will carry certified agricultural produce, so that consumers can buy with more confidence," said Ren.