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Why is the China-Canada Agricultural Cooperation Important?


On June 13, 2012, Canada's influential foreign policy newspaper "Embassy published the article "Why is the China-Canada Agricultural Cooperation Important?"by H.E. Mr. Zhang Junsai, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Canada,  in its Special Report on Agricultural Policy. The following is the full text of the article:

As one Chinese old saying goes, food is the paramount need for people. Agriculture has always been regarded the very basis for China's economy, the importance of which can never been over emphasized for a nation with over 1.3 billion population to feed. For the past six decades, especially since the reform and opening up policy adopted some thirty years ago, the Chinese Government has been making agriculture first among their priorities, and the achievements are recognized around the world: the gross output of grain has grown five folds from 110 million tons to 570 million tons per year, the structure of rural economy being constantly optimized and the increase of the income of rural families being steady.

The Chinese Government always attaches great importance to the utilization of international markets and resources in developing the country's own primary industry, and it regards Canada, renowned for its high quality agricultural produce, advanced agro-technology and rich resources, a most important partner for cooperation. The wheat trade between Canada and China started in the sixties of last century prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations, which played a significant role in easing the food scarcity in China, a great help to the Chinese people. The wheat trade served as also an ice breaker for China-Canada relations in that it enhanced the mutual understanding and laid the foundation for the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1970. Now, China is Canada's fourth largest export and import market, with encouraging results recorded in agricultural technical cooperation and mutual investments. The visit by the Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper in February this year also witnessed new progress achieved in areas like export of Canadian beef products to China, quarantine and agricultural technical cooperation.

Looking into the future, the agricultural cooperation between the two countries knows no boundary.

With the rapid rising of living standards of the Chinese population, there will be growing demand for high quality agricultural products from Canada. For example, thanks to the growing beer consumption in China, the import of Canadian malting barley, an ingredient of many popular Chinese beer products, has been on the increase in the past few years. Besides, the bakers in China are using more and more wheat imported from Canada as well. In 2010 alone, Canada's export of canola to China reached 2 million tons, a value of over 1.6 billion dollars. So for provinces like Saskatchewan and Alberta, the growing demand of the Chinese population is just good news.

The cooperation in agricultural science and technology between China and Canada helps both ways, and is particularly helpful in improving the efficiency of agricultural production in China. For instance, Chinese and Canadian scientists jointly conducted the oats hybrid breeding project and developed new varieties, which successfully grow in saline-alkali soil of China. After years of successful experimenting, the growing area of oats in China increased sharply from 2 to 3 million mu to 10.5 million mu (1 mu= 1/6 acre). Apart from oats, the two countries also carried out fruitful cooperation in areas like agricultural products processing, animal health and GMO bio-safety. According to the 12th Five Year Plan, China is developing modern agriculture through promoting strategic restructuring of its agriculture and speeding up the innovation of agro-science and technologies, and there is a huge role for Canada to play in that process.

It is also important for China and Canada, two major countries in agriculture from both the developing and developed world, to work together to tackle the increasingly serious issue of global food security, by drawing upon their complementarities and expanded trade, joint R&D and investment in agricultural sector.

As a clear manifestation of importance attached to the bilateral cooperation in agriculture, China and Canada established many cooperative mechanisms at the initiatives by the two governments including China-Canada Joint Agricultural Commission(JAC), high level agriculture forum and joint PhD programs on agricultural science launched by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and Chinese Ministry of Education and many more. All these program served as a strong support and basis for the rapid development of agricultural cooperation between the two sides.

What hold for the future? First and foremost, I wish the two countries can expand their trade in agriculture on the basis of sound cooperation and arrangement in animal and plant inspection and quarantine. This is not only to satisfy the needs of the population, more importantly, it serves as the driving forces for industrial upgrading and development. Now the priority is to turn the results of Prime Minister Harper's recent visit to China into concrete actions. Both sides should also, making good use of the existing six pilot model bases, work hard together to enhance the technical innovation capacity for agricultural industries and through that, creating favorable conditions for two way trade and investment. What is equally important is the training of more agriculture-related talents. The two sides need to do more in academic exchanges, technical training, sci-tech exhibition and so on to step up the joint efforts in cultivating more talents for expanded cooperation in agricultural science and technology.

As the sector of agriculture is critical to both nations and our peoples, we have every reason to push for more cooperation and exchange in this area.

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