Source:China Daily Updated:2013-9-2
China plans more exchanges with ASEAN as agricultural cooperation takes root
Agricultural cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations isexpected to get more impetus from the increased seed and technology exchanges between thetwo sides in the next few years, experts said.
Long Jiang, director of the Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology Department, said thatthe agriculture technology transfer agreement signed between the two sides in 2002 would bethe framework for future agricultural cooperation and for development and exchange of newtechnologies.
China has fostered nearly 10,000 new varieties of agricultural products in the past 30 years, hesaid adding that the nation's 3 billion-yuan ($490 million) seed bank project, started in 1995,has helped increase annual food production by 20 million tons.
Long said that the keenness of both sides to enhance agricultural cooperation was evident at arecent meeting of more than 200 agricultural professionals from various Southeast Asian nations in Kunming, capital of Yunnan province. In their meetings with their Chinese counterparts, these professionals agreed to step up efforts to develop and exchange new agricultural technologies.
In Yunnan, more than 300 agricultural researchers and enterprises from all over Chinashowcased their technologies and products, especially seeds of new breeds at the China-ASEAN Technology Transfer Forum on New Technologies and Varieties of Modern Agriculturein Yunnan. In addition, 16 companies from Yunnan signed contracts with partners from ASEANnations for technology demonstration parks in super soft rice, corn and castor oil.
Long said that there have been increased efforts to cultivate agricultural professionals, boosttechnology exchanges and promotions, and foster agricultural trade between the two sides.
The Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Agriculture, the United NationsDevelopment Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization have all been providingfunds for agriculture technology transfers between the two sides, along with some privatecompanies such as Sime Darby from Malaysia, according to Jin Ke, director of the nationalcooperation division of the International Cooperation Department of the Chinese Academy ofAgricultural Sciences.
As one of the three research institutions directly administered by the Agriculture Ministry, theCAAS has signed cooperation agreements with Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines topromote technical services, postgraduate education, joint research projects and technologytransfers, Jin said.
The Gates Foundation has also teamed up with CAAS and provided $18 million for researchand development of super rice that was subsequently transferred to other ASEAN nations likeLaos and Cambodia. The super rice has increased rice yields by 25 to 30 percent in thesenations, he said.
Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng called for the development of a pilot research center inASEAN nations during his visit to CAAS earlier this year. According to Jin, the first center isexpected to be established in Myanmar next year.
"Agriculture is the fundamental industry for both China and ASEAN nations. Both sides havestrong competitiveness in their own fields of research. For example, ASEAN nations have moreadvantages in research into tropical plants and animals," Jin said.
The forum was also a platform for several participants to publicize new technologies andbreeds. Shanghai Lianye Agricultural Science and Technology Co Ltd announced a newbreakthrough in fertilizing technology by developing a technique to mix water with fertilizersbased on the plant's demand and the nutritional conditions of the land. The company has ajoint venture with an Israeli enterprise to build a factory in the Inner Mongolia autonomousregion and will soon venture into the ASEAN markets.
"Our technology will reduce the consumption of water and fertilizers to the lowest level, andallow the plant to grow as fast as it can," said He Longhui, technical director of Lianye.
Seed trade is another crucial aspect for technology transfers, says Guo Chunyu, deputydirector of the Technology Transfer Center at CAAS. Yang Bingpeng, researcher at theInstitute of Tropical Bioscience and Biotechnology based in Haikou, capital of Hainan province,says that a newly developed sugar cane variety can increase the sugar yield to 90 tons ahectare from the current 60 tons. "The climate in Hainan is extremely similar to most of theASEAN countries and the high-yield variety will be a bestseller in the region," he said.
Lu Yixuan, chairman of the board of directors of Yunnan Jinrui Seed Industry Co Ltd, said thesuper soft rice bred in Yunnan, a plateau province at a low latitude, is ideally suited to theclimate in Southeast Asia and can help raise the yield, he says. "The yields from the newvariety could be around 225 tons a hectare and we have already received interest from farmersin Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia," Lu said. "We have also sent technicians to instructthe ASEAN farmers on how to grow the super soft rice."
Viraporn Mongkolchaisit, division director of the National Science and Technology DevelopmentAgency of Thailand, says that her institute has signed a memorandum of understanding withthe Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences to jointly cultivate expertise. Each year, theagency deputes three researchers to Sichuan and trains five Sichuan scientists in modernbreeding techniques, she says.
"We have been working on new breeds resistant to bacterial wilt such as chili, cucumber andbitter gourd. The new varieties have higher yields and better taste as we found the antibodiesagainst disease can keep the plant growing more safely," she said.
Lu Zhizhong, a technician from the international business department of Hubei Seeds Groupsays his company has exported 5,000 tons of hybrid rice seeds to countries in Southeast andSouth Asia, more than 30 times the amount in 2002.
In 2002, the Hubei Seeds Group became the first company to obtain an export certificate fromthe Ministry of Agriculture. "Seeds, unlike food, are usually governed by customs," he said. "Our seeds are of superb quality and have passed all the required inspection and quarantinetests for exports to Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Bangladesh."
Some countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan have huge demand for high-yield seeds tofeed their large population while their land is limited, Lu said.
However, obstacles still remain. Lu says that though Thailand is well known for its high-quality rice, it is reluctant to release its germ plasm resources, while the marketing system is not that efficient in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
Jin Ke from the CAAS suggests that both sides step up bilateral exchanges in agricultural professional training and degree courses. Some joint laboratories and research centers canalso be set up to further explore the role of agricultural technology transfer, he said.