Roundtable discussion on improving cooperation in modern day agriculture for the sake of developing the Shanghai Spirit

Roundtable discussion on improving cooperation in modern day agriculture for the sake of developing the Shanghai Spirit

On 22 October 2019, 26th China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair (CAF) in Shaanxi province was the venue of the opening ceremonies for modern day agriculture education facilities for SCO countries and the stone-laying ceremony for the SCO education and display centre to exchange agricultural technology.

SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov attended the roundtable discussion, Improving Cooperation in Modern Day Agriculture for the Sake of Developing the Shanghai Spirit. The delegations were represented by the heads of agricultural ministries and agencies of China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus, Mongolia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

SCO Deputy Secretary-General Vladimir Potapenko was the moderator.

CPC Committee Secretary of the Shaanxi Province Hu Heping delivered his greetings to those taking part in the discussion. He urged them to jointly search for solutions to develop closer cooperation when it comes to SCO agriculture. He also noted that the SCO countries are a heavily populated region with vast potential and a large agricultural market. In this regard, the international initiative by Chinese President Xi Jinping on the strengthening of regional cooperation and establishing an education and demonstration centre in Yangling will facilitate the search for new ways and development models for agriculture in the SCO countries.

In his report, SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov focused on transferring over to green agriculture, the creation of a network of ‘smart farms,' the transfer of advanced irrigation technologies, the rational use of water resources, desert greening and counteracting soil erosion. He also noted the importance of information and communication technologies as part of agricultural supply chains to create new platforms and reduce the losses of agricultural products.

Speaking of the SCO as a large consumer and export market of agricultural products, Mr Norov suggested that work should begin on the unification of standards in the field of sanitary and phytosanitary regulations in order to overcome the certification and customs barriers. He also emphasised the possibility to create a network of trade inspectorates, phytosanitary and certification centres within the SCO.

Speaking of the implementation of the decisions made at the Bishkek summit, Chief Director of Animal Husbandry at the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Ma Youxiang made several proposals, including the consolidation of

the current SCO mechanism of cooperation in agriculture; the development of an information system to exchange information about production, prices and trade in main agricultural products, as well as epidemic outbreaks, prevention and counteracting animal and plant diseases; the promotion of research and technical cooperation; the creation of an agricultural investment and trade platform for the further cooperation and exchange between agricultural facilities together with the SCO member states; the assistance in creating in Yangling of an education and demonstration base to exchange agricultural technologies within the SCO. Yangling is China's leading agricultural and research-technical city; it has trained over 2,500 experts in agriculture and agro engineering from 120 countries.

State Secretary of the Kyrgyz Ministry of Agriculture, Food Industry and Melioration Maksatbek Tashbolotov said that for Kyrgyzstan, the most important activity is exporting eco-friendly agricultural products. He also said that work is being done to build and equip up-to-date veterinary and phytosanitary centres in the country with the assistance of China. Kyrgyzstan announced the year 2019 as the year of regional development and digitalisation. Work is also underway to introduce digitalisation and new technologies in agriculture, including the creation of ‘smart farms.'

According to a report by Aide to the Secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Muhammad Ayub Chaudry, the agricultural industry of Pakistan provides food to over 207 million people. The subject of food security is one of the seven key development spheres of Pakistan up to 2025. He also said that Pakistan is interested in increasing productivity of the main field and garden crops. He also noted the need to expand cooperation in technology exchange, in particular in the processing industry, creating added value, promoting renewable energy sources and personnel exchange.

A section head at the Russian Agriculture Ministry called for developing a multilateral cooperation platform with best practices centres, showpiece farms and consultation services for rural areas. "We need a clear policy of improving multi-sectoral cooperation in order to ensure food security, economic efficiency and the ecological safety of agricultural and food systems. Forward-looking agriculture must try to reduce post-harvesting losses and to increase the utilisation of by-products," she said in her remarks.

Tajik Deputy Agriculture Minister Zevarsho Zevarshoev spoke highly of Tajikistan's cooperation with China, which is developing especially rapidly in the field of plant growing, seed improvement and agricultural machinery. There are conditions for cultivating organic products, he said. However, the country needs investments for export products, agricultural processing and the provision of farming machinery.

Agriculture Minister of Uzbekistan Zhamshid Khodzhayev spoke in his remarks about the importance of subsidising investments in agricultural research and ensuring that farmers have access to the latest agricultural achievements. The minister proposed implementing the SCO initiative of "smart villages" aimed at making the best possible use of local advantages through social innovation and smart specialisation; working together to develop a cooperative movement in the SCO space with the assistance from private consulting and technological companies, as well as SCO countries' agricultural research centres; strengthening SCO cooperation in the field of plant protection, the development and introduction of biotechnology and chemical methods of plant protection plus pest and disease control; as well as promoting interaction in the field of ecological farming.

A representative of the Belarusian Embassy to China reported on his country's agrarian sector, growing trade with the SCO countries and the potential of Belarus as a traditional agricultural nation.

Deputy Agriculture Minister of Azerbaijan Elchin Zeynalov noted Azerbaijan's commitment to mutually beneficial cooperation within the SCO format.

Erdensaihan Yadamsuren, Director General of the Department of SMEs, Services and Cooperative Development Coordination Policy at the Mongolian Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, pointed out that three priority sectors — food, agriculture and the light industry — employ 53.8 percent of Mongolians and produce 31.2 percent of GDP, or more than 10 percent of export revenues. Another important goal is to create the so-called pattern cooperative farms in order to boost the production of agricultural raw materials, facilitate their delivery to cattle breeding farms and enhance the farmers' incomes.

Dr Kazem Khavazi, Deputy Agriculture Minister of Iran and Head of the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organisation (AREEO), said in his report that Iran's agriculture accounts for between 10 and 13 percent of GDP and employs between 18 and 20 percent of the economically active population. The sector meets 95 percent of the country's food requirements. Iran produces 95-100 million tonnes of agricultural products (grain and fruit growing, livestock breeding and fisheries) and is in the group of the world's top 10 producers of 20 agricultural commodities.

Head of the Economic Department at the Afghan Embassy in China Jamshed Rahimi pointed out that about 70 percent of the country's population reside in rural areas and 61 percent make a living via agriculture. Over the recent 18 years thanks to the assistance of the international community, the country has managed to increase agricultural exports and get onto the regional and international markets. Speaking of the SCO, the diplomat emphasised its capacity and coordinating role in the region in promoting and encouraging effective cooperation between Afghanistan and other countries. "China can play a greater role in assisting the country by adopting new technologies, introducing state-of-the-art cultivation methods, training farmers and horticulturists, building irrigation infrastructure,

distributing quality seeds, improving the environment and involving females in the agricultural sector," he stated in the report.

The Sri Lankan Minister of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Irrigation and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development underscored that 80 percent of his country's population live in the countryside, however migration to the cities is on the rise and the government has to provide for food security. Sri Lanka is ready to expand cooperation with China, given the great success of the many-year long experience of South-South cooperation.

Meanwhile, speaking of the agricultural production as a priority sphere in his country's economy, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the Kingdom of Cambodia, put emphasis on the importance of upgrading agricultural production facilities, intensifying and improving the irrigation system, growing profitable plants and streamlining management in the Cambodian agriculture.

Summing up the roundtable discussion Wei Zengjun, Shaanxi Provincial Vice Governor and Director of Yangling Agricultural Hi-tech Industry Demonstration Zone Management Committee, thanked the countries for their participation and support for the Chinese initiative and stressed the participants' constructive proposals on deepening cooperation in modern day agriculture.

He expressed the shared opinion of the roundtable discussion participants regarding the significance of raising agriculture to a higher level of quality using cutting-edge innovative achievements in science and technology. Taking this into consideration the establishment of an SCO training and demonstration centre for agricultural technologies exchange and training will help to promote the agricultural sector and optimise the goals concerning food systems.

The 26th China Yangling Agricultural Hi-Tech Fair (CAF) will close on 26 October 2019. Over 1.5 million people from 60 countries are expected to visit it.