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Mekong River region awaits take off
( 2003-11-04 00:32) (China Daily)

China is attaching great importance to agricultural co-operations with countries in the Greater Mekong Subregions (GMS), said Niu Dun, director of International Department of China's Ministry of Agriculture.

"Countries and communities in the region, including China's Yunnan Province, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, share a similar natural geography, climate and vegetation, which are highly complementary in agricultural production and trade,'' said Niu during the two-day Workshop on Agricultural Investment and Co-operation in the GMS, which opened yesterday in Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province.

They are all developing countries and communities with a large rural population. Besides, they share the same interests in developing agriculture and see this sector as the most important driving force in their economic development, said Niu.

Since the 10th GMS Ministerial Conference in November 2001, which decided to establish the GMS Working Group for Agriculture, China has made great effort to propel the agricultural co-operations in the Mekong Basin area, according to Niu.

A series of training courses on agricultural technology were held in China, which provided a good opportunity for neighbouring countries to know China's latest development, such as "fresh water fishing farming'' and "hybrid rice technology.''

Meanwhile, China has carried out various technical exchange programmes with these countries. In 2002, China received seven visiting groups from the GMS countries and dispatched six groups to these countries as well.

"In addition to technological co-operation, China is planning to extend to more areas, such as the agricultural management, education, financing and human resourcing,'' said the director.

Niu said the regional co-operation is an "energetic method'' in agricultural production.

"Such a method, based on the common interest within the region, will bring all members benefits. Agriculture is a huge and complicated sector. Every country has their own advantage and disadvantage, therefore they need to learn from each other in order to grow faster,'' Niu said.

His opinion is echoed by C R Rajendran, director of the Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Division of Mekong Department, Asian Development Bank (ABD). "China has made a rapid progress in the development of agriculture -- with the help of high technology, the country has increased its productivity while the quality of agricultural products has been largely improved. Countries in the Mekong Basin admired China's progress and would love to learn from China.

"Meanwhile, China also has to learn from these countries, such as the plantation in dry-climate area,'' Rajendran said.

Niu said China is going to add more cities and provinces into the programme, such as the Chongqing Municipality and Hainan Province.

"We hope more regions of the country may benefit from this co-operation,'' he said.

However, the GMS co-operation is still facing various obstacles. The gaps between different countries in terms of infrastructure network building remains quite large, which adds to the cost of doing business and limits agri-business investment in the GMS region, according to a report from ADB.

The isolation of large areas of the GMS and the restrictions on information flows also make the co-operation difficult. "The regular exchange of accurate information among members of the business communities is critical to the implementation of co-operation activities among GMS countries,'' said Anthony M Zola, technical assistance consultant with ADB.

Niu agreed with Zola's comment, saying: "A co-ordinating system needs to be established in the future in the GMS region in order to increase the working efficiency.

"Also, financial investment needs to be expanded from the current government input to investment from enterprises, organizations and the society.''

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