Special Farms Provide Safe Food for China's Officials

Nowhere is China’s concerns about food safety more apparent than in the growing practice of government officials sourcing foods from secretive special farms that maintain the strictest health and safety standards.

Beijing’s customs officials, for example, get their veggies from the oddly-named Beijing Customs Vegetable Farm and Country Club, according to Southern Weekly, a popular magazine based in the southern city of Guangzhou. For more than a decade the farm has been selling its strictly organic vegetables exclusively to the Customs Office.

The farm’s over 200 hectares of crops are protected by 2-meter walls patrolled by five guards. The farm uses only animal waste as fertilizer and organic pesticides. It supplies the Customs Office cafeteria with high-quality organic produce simply not available to most consumers in a nation grappling with dangerous levels of water and air pollution and frequent food-quality scandals.

The cafeteria of the Shaanxi province high court is equally picky about its produce, sourcing it exclusively from its own private farm located 30 kilometers from Xi’an. Another secret farm in Guangdong province produces pigs, chickens, ducks and fish as well as vegetables for consumption by government officials.

The 103 suppliers selected by the organizers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics remain on tight supplier relationships with government offices five years after the Olympics. A case in point is Beijing’s New Century Breeding Farm which had provided eggs for the Olympics. It had been selected to become an Olympic supplier after it passed strict tests of water supply, livestock feed and air quality. The farm continues to supply food to officials of the central government.

These specially selected farms supply not only the cafeterias of government offices but also the households of some food procurement officials.

Tight controls imposed on every link of the food supply chain are zealously guarded to ensure that their high quality is maintained. Files kept on vegetable plantings and pesticide use are as detailed as those kept on some subversives, according to sources.

The farmers chosen to participate in these special supplier relationships deem themselves fortunate for being assured of a steady source of guaranteed income.

Since July 1960 when the government nomenclature for such quality-assured food supplies was changed from “non-staple food supplement” to “special supply”, the later term has come to take on a high degree of mystery and prestige in the public’s mind.