Business / Industries

LatAm-China agricultural cooperation thrives

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-12-15 13:20

MEXICO CITY - Agricultural cooperation between China and Latin America is thriving thanks to their economic complementarity.

It has now become commonplace in China to come across Latin American exports such as soy, sorghum, honey, beef, wheat and corn, as well as fruits.

In a recent report, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) based in Santiago, Chile, said China's economic transformation and growing rates of domestic consumption will positively impact countries in the region.

China's current development strategy, which seeks to transform the economy from an export- and investment-driven one to a consumer-driven one by boosting people's purchasing power, will build an enormous new market for regional products, from Mexican avocados to Chilean grapes and Argentine meat and wines.

"For Argentina, the importance of trade ties with China is clear," Matias Carugati, chief economist at Buenos Aires consulting firm Management & Fit, told Xinhua.

Since 94 percent of exports to China are agricultural products and byproducts, while 60 percent of imports are capital goods, parts and accessories, the potential for cooperation is significant, he said.

ECLAC estimated that China's food imports will more than double by 2020, potentially turning Latin America's vast natural resources and competitive agricultural companies into key suppliers for the Chinese market.

In this way, the "Chinese Dream" of raising living standards will generate growth opportunities for Latin American agriculture and other productive sectors.

Mexican Agriculture Minister Jose Calzada Rovirosa recently described China as "an enormous opportunity" for his country's agricultural sector, and saw "good synergy" in bilateral trade in the sector.

China buys food products worth about $122 million a year from overseas to satisfy the needs of its large population, said Calzada.

"With the quality we have, and the demand that currently exists in China, we will certainly be able to establish very good synergy with this important country," said Calzada, whose ministry also oversees livestock and fisheries.

In 2015, Mexico's agricultural exports to China grew 24 percent over the year before, said Calzada, noting the sector's trade balance with China is in Mexico's favor.

Rodrigo Contreras, head of foreign relations at Chile's Agriculture Ministry, said his country's agricultural exports to China have grown nearly 3 percent in the first half of the year.

China is Chile's leading trade partner, with bilateral exchange surpassing $31 billion in 2014.

Argentina's ambassador to China Gustavo Martino has described Latin America's strategic partnership with China as key to both developing regions and their shared goals of reducing poverty, promoting economic development and improving quality of life.

The two sides planned to continue to organize a forum for agriculture ministers from China and Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held for the first time in 2013 in Beijing.

The forum aims to create a platform for agricultural exchanges between government agencies, scientific research institutions and companies and to deepen agricultural cooperation between China and Latin America for mutual benefit, said Martino.

To that end, China has set up a special $50 million fund for bilateral agricultural cooperation projects.

A 2015-2019 plan for cooperation between China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, adopted in January, also calls for intensifying and deepening agricultural cooperation, including in the fields of livestock and forestry, fishing and fish farming.

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