More farm im­ports ‘necessary’

Agri­cul­tural deficit in first quar­ter up 12%

China Daily - - TOP NEWS - By WANG XIAODONG wangx­i­aodong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ex­perts said a mod­er­ate in­crease in agri­cul­tural im­ports from around the world is es­sen­tial to meet ris­ing do­mes­tic de­mand in China.

The coun­try im­ported $32 bil­lion in agri­cul­tural prod­ucts in the first quar­ter of this year, up by 10.4 per­cent year-onyear, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Af­fairs.

The value of China’s to­tal agri­cul­tural trade reached $50 bil­lion in the first three months, an in­crease of 10 per­cent year-on-year, the min­istry said this week. The agri­cul­tural trade deficit in the first quar­ter amounted to $14.1 bil­lion, up by 12 per­cent year-on-year.

“Pop­u­la­tion growth in China and up­graded de­mand for con­sump­tion will lead to sus­tained in­crease in do­mes­tic de­mand for agri­cul­tural prod­ucts,” said Song Juguo, deputy di­rec­tor of the min­istry’s Agri­cul­tural Trade Pro­mo­tion Cen­ter.

“Mean­while, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion in China faces in­creas­ing con­straints in­clud­ing lim­ited re­sources and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion. It is necessary to ex­pand agri­cul­tural im­ports,” he said.

China is now the world’s big­gest im­porter of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, with its to­tal value ac­count­ing for 10 per­cent of the global trade of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, the min­istry said.

The coun­try’s trade deficit in agri­cul­tural prod­ucts has been in­creas­ing since 2004, and it reached $40 to $50 bil­lion ev­ery year in re­cent years, the min­istry said. Last year, China im­ported agri­cul­tural prod­ucts worth $111.6 bil­lion, an in­crease of 16 per­cent year-onyear. Ma­jor im­ports in­cluded grains, cot­ton, ed­i­ble oil, sugar, meat and dairy prod­ucts.

While it is necessary to ex­pand such im­ports to meet in­creas­ing de­mand, Song also said the in­crease should not be too fast.

“Agri­cul­ture is a mat­ter of na­tional food se­cu­rity and the liveli­hood of hun­dreds of mil­lions of farm­ers in China,” he said. “Im­ports should be bal­anced with the pace of China’s in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and ur­ban­iza­tion.”

Some ar­eas should be put on the pri­or­ity list for in­creased im­ports, Song said, such as high qual­ity seeds and sprouts, as well as pes­ti­cides and fer­til­iz­ers, to in­crease yields and re­duce pol­lu­tion caused by pro­duc­tion to pro­mote green agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment.

The im­por­ta­tion of high-end farm ma­chin­ery and equip­ment should be en­cour­aged to re­duce la­bor costs and im­prove ef­fi­ciency, Song said.

Im­ports of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts that have seen a rapid rise in de­mand, like high-qual­ity aquatic prod­ucts and ex­otic fruits and nuts, should also be in­creased, he added.

Li Wei, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Ren­min Uni­ver­sity of China, said the United States is the big­gest ex­porter of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts in the world, and China-US agri­cul­tural trade has great po­ten­tial to in­crease, es­pe­cially in the trade of meat.

China is the net im­porter in China-US agri­cul­tural trade due to dif­fer­ences in re­sources be­tween the two coun­tries and China’s in­creas­ing de­mand, he said.

“China lags be­hind the US in ef­fi­ciency in much agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion,” he said. “A proper in­crease in im­por­ta­tion of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts from the US is in the in­ter­est of China.”

Song also sug­gested China di­ver­sify its sources, in­clud­ing coun­tries in­volved in the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

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