Food for the cities programme

Response measures to ensure the urban food supply system and farmers' livelihoods under COVID-19

Experiences from Jiangsu Province, China


Photo credit: Guiin Shen and Xiaojing Liao

By Guiyin Shen, Xiaojing Liao (Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, JAAS)

(Translated by Jia Ni and Shulang Fei)

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The outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic has impacted the urban food system, including agricultural production, sales, distribution, consumption, and farmers' livelihoods.

In order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Jiangsu province and Nanjing city (the capital of Jiangsu province, China) have adopted a variety of policies to ensure the food supply in the urban and rural area, facilitate the resumption of the agricultural enterprises’ economic activities, and support the preparation for the spring farming, aiming to safeguard an effective supply chain of agricultural produce and a good recovery of the local economy in the post-COVID 19 period. 

1. Main polices on the urban food systems

Multisector coordination on food supply system

Departments of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Transportation, and others who involved in the agriculture production and transportation, jointly collaborated to ensure the normal distribution and established green light channels (fast pass) for agriculture products and agricultural production materials, including feed, veterinary medicine, seed and seedlings.

Departments of Commerce, together with others, analyzed and shared the agricultural products information of supply side (cooperatives, large-scale production sites, large plantation families) with demand side (large supermarket and wholesale market), to ensure the food supply and demand matched well during the quarantine. Emergency channels were particularly established for seasonal agricultural products to prioritize their buying, quality checking, storage, distribution, and financial settlement.

Online and Offline (OAO) services to promote fresh vegetable production

Governments in different levels organized Online and Offline (OAO) services to promote fresh vegetable production. Online channels included remote guidance on pest management, and offline ones included face-face training, based on the premise of “safely” contact.

For example, the two images below shows that Agricultural Technology Extension specialists in Wuxi and Jiangyin city instructed spring farming in the field, and organized technical guidance for agricultural entities to ensure green and safe vegetable production.

Financial support on food supply

The province’s financial subsidies are provided to: counties that greatly contributed to food supply during the COVID-19 period; agricultural entities that were designated to provide food supply or purchase overstocked produce; entities that utilize online channels and achieve a certain amount of sales.


2. Main policies on the resumption of agricultural enterprises’ activities

Resumption of essential enterprises’ activities

Essential agricultural-related enterprises, including those involved in feed and feed additives, livestock and poultry, veterinary medicine, vegetable production, food processing and distribution, etc., have priority to resume. Relevant measures, such as toll waiver, rapid and prior pass, free detection, etc. were implemented.

Financial support and subsidies on Novel Agricultural Business Entities[1]

Municipal governments in the Jiangsu province provided financial support to novel agricultural business entities in different ways as follows:

1)     Loan priority with simplified procedures required. Nanjing city encouraged banks to provide new-type agricultural business entities with much-needed working capital loans, for example, family farms no more than 0.5 million yuan (70 000 USD), cooperatives no more than 4 million yuan (560 000 USD).

2)     Financial guarantee. Suzhou city provided various types of agricultural enterprises with a financial guarantee of no more than 10 million yuan (1.4 million USD) per household.

3)     Interest subsidies. Suzhou city provided a certain percentage of financial discount for the loan interest of new-type agricultural business entities. Wuxi city granted a financial subsidies of no more than 2% fiscal revenue.

4)     Insurance fee waiver. Suzhou city exempted the insurance fee for the new-type agricultural business entities. Wuxi city provided policy-supported agricultural insurance to vegetable (including edible fungus), livestock, poultry, and aquatic producers (household level) at ‘zero cost’.

5)     Subsidies for online sales. Various amount of subsidies was provided to the entities that achieved a certain amount of online sales, for example 50 000 yuan (7 000 USD) subsidies for 1 million yuan (140 000 USD) sales in Suzhou city.

6)     Rent reduction. For those entities, renting state-owned land and facilities, the fee was reduced or freed.

7)     Subsidies for large-scale vegetable producers. Suzhou city provided 500 yuan/mu (≈1050USD/ha) subsidies for large-scale vegetable producers, to encourage the production.

Financial support on agri-tourism industry

The agri-tourism industry played an important role in Jiangsu and Nanjing. In order to encourage resumption, Nanjing city provided more than 1 billion yuan (14 million USD) for more than 200 agri-tourism entities, with the interest lower than market average amount.

Financial support on swine production

Swine production has been heavily affected by both ASF (African swine fever) and COVID-19 quarantine. Both the provincial and municipal governments issued reward of 100 yuan (14 USD) per pig and 500 yuan (70 USD) per boar to encourage swine production.

For example, on 10 March, a sub-district office in Liuhe District, Nanjing city, signed an agreement on swine breeding base project with a private company. The project plans to build a commercial swine base with a stock of 21 000-24 000 heads and an annual output of 50 000 heads, which will contribute about 26% to the pigs' slaughtering tasks for Liuhe District in 2020.

Promotion of E-commerce

Commerce Alliance, including large supermarkets and large-scale production sites, was organized to promote online business, and information platform was established to match the supply and demand, and to promote direct selling and distributing.

In February, Changzhou Municipal Agriculture and Rural Bureau, China Post Group Corporation Changzhou Branch and other departments, jointly collaborated with Changzhou Xiaocaiyuan Agricultural Development Center and developed the online supply channel of agricultural products in Changzhou city, distributing fresh food to the citizens. 

Besides, Nanjing News Media Group, Nanjing Municipal Agriculture and Rural Bureau, Nanjing Women ’s Federation and Nanjing Property Service Guidance Center, jointly developed the “Food Delivery to Home” charity platform which provided direct channels for citizens to purchase vegetables.


3. Main policies on the rural migrants’ employment and livelihoods

Migrant workers

As one of the most developed regions in China, Jiangsu attracts millions of migrant workers from the whole country. Nanjing released guidance to resume hiring migrant workers step by step, including health code[2] application and registration employment registration, and skill training.

Local workers

Nanjing also provided skill training for local workers, especially on the skills of baby sitter, maternal-child nursing, cooking, etc., to meet the market demand during the lockdown. Tea factories in Nanjing were encouraged to employ local tea plucking workers, while those that have to employ workers from other regions should carry out proper information recording and online training.

Insurance mechanisms for enterprises

Social insurance (including pension, unemployment and industrial injury) accounts for big part of enterprise cost, especially for agricultural enterprises. Nanjing planned to reduce enterprises’ social insurance gradually based on the scales, insurance types and period. For example, from February to June 2020, social insurance of SMEs (small medium enterprises) was exempted; from February to April/June 2020, social insurance of large enterprises/all enterprises was halved. Enterprises which were heavily affected by quarantine could apply for social insurance postpone.


4. Main policies on stimulating consumption and livelihoods

Vouchers to promote agri-tourism industry

In Nanjing, agri-tourism vouchers in transportation and accommodation valuing at 3 million yuan (420 000 USD) and 10 million yuan (1.4 million USD) respectively, were given to the consumers directly to support the recovery of agri-tourism.

E-vouchers to promote consumption

Nanjing issued e-vouchers for citizens, especially for vulnerable groups, to encourage consumption on catering, sports, book purchasing, etc.

Support to catering enterprises

Nanjing released guidance on catering enterprise resumption, including green channels for restaurants to obtain take-out certificates. Besides, a special insurance was provided for consumers to encourage eat-in.

Measures to support farmers’ livelihoods

In order to prevent slip back to poverty because of epidemic, low-income groups in Nanjing were provided a series of policy support, including employment, education, health care, poverty alleviation, etc.


5.Conclusions and recommendations

The measures of Jiangsu Province has been conducting on urban food supply chain shows:

1) Multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism in both provincial and municipal level is key to provide enough and nutritious food for citizens in urban and rural areas.

2) ICTs can play an important role in matching food demand and supply, while reducing food loss and waste, as well as reducing contagious risks during the pandemic. Online technical guidance for farmers, together with e-commerce, could be the trend for future technical extension services.

3) Financial support, i.e. funding rewards, subsidy, tax deduction, etc., are quite important for resuming business activities, especially for the first several months, when most of the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are suffering in capital liquidity.

4) While encouraging resuming business activities, it is critical to highlight the livelihood of local farmers and urban poor, to make sure their accessibility to food and agricultural inputs.

[1] Novel Agricultural Business Entities refer to large plantation families, family farms, cooperatives, leading agricultural enterprises, and agricultural industrialization union.

[2] A kind of code that was widely used during the lockdown and can trace the owners’ healthy info.