China expands B&R agri ties

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/20 23:43:40 Last Updated: 2018/7/21 14:58:57

‘China feeds 20% of world population with 10% of arable land’

China is enhancing agricultural cooperation with countries along the Belt and Road, expecting to make a greater contribution to global agricultural development and economic growth, with experts saying the move can also neutralizing the negative impact of the trade frictions with the US.

"China will offer policy and financial support to food trade and infrastructure construction to encourage Chinese grain enterprises to cooperate with Belt and Road countries," said Zhang Wufeng, head of the State Grain and Reserves Administration (SGRA), at a recent international food cooperation forum in Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu Province.

At the forum, Gansu reached agreements with Azerbaijan and Belarus to import wheat from Belarus and export potatoes and olive oil to Azerbaijan.

"We look forward to establishing a more effective partnership with China, hoping to export Azerbaijani organic food and bring in China's agricultural technology, investments and experience," said Elsa Asadov, vice president of the Azerbaijan Agricultural Products Supply and Marketing Corp, Xinhua reported.

Cheng Guoqiang, a professor at the School of Economics and Management of Tongji University in Shanghai, said the new round of international agricultural cooperation would help improve integrated production capabilities, reduce poverty and improve the ecological environment along the Belt and Road.

A national action plan under the framework of Belt and Road released in 2017 shows that provinces in western China will cooperate with Central Asia in grain, animal husbandry and cotton, while northern provinces will work with the Russian Far East on grain and vegetables, and southern provinces will grow grain and tropical cash crops in collaboration with Southeast and South Asian countries, Xinhua reported.

Reducing hunger

In ancient times, agricultural exchanges were active along the Silk Road, which had brought in crops, including sesame and pomegranate, to China and took Chinese tea and silk to Central Asia. With most countries along the Belt and Road working on reducing hunger, poverty and ensuring food security, agricultural cooperation is still a common expectation, Xinhua reported.

Zhang noted that China has significantly improved its ability to ensure food security, being able to feed 20 percent of the world's population with 10 percent of cultivated land and six percent of fresh water in the world.

"Thirty-seven countries in the world still need food aid. Belt and Road countries have comparative advantages and can promote food trade and cooperation," Zhang noted.

Aside of trading agricultural products, YTO Group Corporation, a leading agricultural machinery manufacturer based in Central China's Henan Province, has been tapping into markets along the Belt and Road as the initiative steadily progresses.

In Serbia, the group has sold more than 3,000 tractors since it entered the market 10 years ago. In 2017, it secured the second largest market share in the country, selling 350 tractors, Xinhua reported.

Balancing the trade frictions

"With or without the trade frictions with the US, China will promote agriculture cooperation with other countries because China has limited cultivated areas and a huge population needing food," said Bai Ming, deputy director of the International Market Research Institute.

China imports a lot of agricultural products, including soybeans and meat products, from the US, so the trade war will surely have an impact on China's domestic market, Bai said. "Brazil and Argentina are options for soybeans, so China needs to use the trade conflict as an opportunity to boost agriculture cooperation with other countries and reduce its dependence on the US."

"Diversifying sources of imports will make other countries rely more on China's market, rather than China paying a high price for products from one or two suppliers," he remarked.


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