To cooperate with African countries in the farm sector will not only benefit local people but will also provide a potential agricultural import source for China, which could ensure domestic food safety and stability amid escalating trade tensions with the U.S., experts said at an agricultural seminar held in Beijing on Thursday.
The forum was held by the China Institute for South-South Cooperation in Agriculture ahead of the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which is scheduled to run from September 3 to 4.
Bilateral trade cooperation, including agricultural cooperation, will surely be strengthened further under the framework, experts noted.
"Africa has a fast-growing economy, and the population of Africa is expected to reach 2 billion by 2050, indicating a large potential market. With these advantages and abundant resources, I believe Africa is the next growth point in the world, along with Southeast Asia," Liu Hanwu, general secretary of the Chinese Foreign Agricultural Development Industry Alliance, said.
In terms of agriculture, Africa has abundant resources that could feed the whole world, said Li Xiaoyun, a professor at China Agricultural University.
However, due to disadvantages like high costs and low mechanization levels, Africa can hardly export its agricultural products. But China can help with this, Li said.
The agricultural mechanization level in Africa is quite low, with most of the production still relying on human and animal power. Except for some commercialized farms, small farmers can't afford any equipment, experts said at the seminar.
According to data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Africa produces little chemical fertilizer, and its fertilizer application rate is at a comparatively low level, standing at only 56.9 kilograms per hectare, while the average rate in Asia was 246.3 kilograms.
Liu suggested that China could export advanced agricultural equipment like farm tractors that are urgently needed by African countries, while helping local people market high-quality agricultural products such as blueberries and export such crops to China, as well as other countries.
Some loans and capital aid from China could be directed into the farm sector to further improve its development, Liu said.
China and Africa have highly complementary trade structures, so the cooperation between China and Africa has long-term strategic meaning. "We are now also partners," Li said.
"It's unavoidable that there may be some problems in cooperation between China and Africa - for example, disagreements arising from policy or cultural issues - but the two undoubtedly have great potential to cooperate in the future," Chen Zhigang, researcher of the International Food Policy Research Institute, told the Global Times on Thursday.