Doing but not knowing: how apple farmers comply with standards in China

Abstract

Are public and private standards affecting farmer knowledge and moving farm practices toward food safety and environmental sustainability in China? We surveyed 355 apple farmers involved in chains supplying a diversity of retailing points, including supermarkets. Using a multivariate regression model, we find no measurable evidence that the certification schemes of farm bases and agribusiness companies lead to improved apple growers’ knowledge regarding pest and disease management. The observed behavioral changes are mainly prompted by delegated decision-making towards leaders of farm bases, which raises questions on the long-term changes in farmers’ practices and on the fundamental values and ethics of China’s agrofood system that is governed through the standards.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In China, the No. 1 Document is considered the State Council’s most important document of the year and, for the 14th consecutive year, focused exclusively on agriculture.

  2. 2.

    The length restriction does not allow for a thorough presentation of the institutions and the production of agricultural standards in China. More details are available in an online document that is specific to this project and publication. https://agritrop.cirad.fr/588525/.

  3. 3.

    One supermarket manager interviewed by the authors of this study in 2014 mentioned that they have their own standard controlled by a private auditing company and used by three cooperatives. Their priority is traceability and farmer training through the global food safety initiative (GFSI).

  4. 4.

    In the case of no direct marketing to any supermarket but rather to vendor companies, we requested the contacts of those agribusiness companies to round out our survey. Once the vendors agreed to an interview, the research team conducted a follow-up survey involving the marketing channels of the company.

  5. 5.

    In a very limited number of cases, a farm base had member coverage in several villages. For such cases, we chose member farmers in the village with the largest number of members.

  6. 6.

    The figures 0.3 and 0.6 are the means of the private extension services and the public extension services variables respectively.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the anonymous referees and the journal editor for suggestions that have improved the paper. We are also grateful for funding support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71573209), the talent Recruitment Program of Northwest A & F University, PhD Star-up Fund of Northwest A&F University (2452015328), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0201303), the “Sustainapple” program from the French National Research Agency (ANR-13-ALID-004).

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Correspondence to Xiangping Jia.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 8.

Table 8 A Main specifications of standards in China

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Ding, J., Moustier, P., Ma, X. et al. Doing but not knowing: how apple farmers comply with standards in China. Agric Hum Values 36, 61–75 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-018-9886-0

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Keywords

  • Agrifood chain
  • Knowledge
  • Food safety
  • Food system
  • Ethic and values