Pakistan sets sights on China’s $100 billion imported food market: Report

BEIJING, July 6 (INP): Pakistan sets sights on China’s $100 billion imported food market, since it has rich potential of producing export-oriented agricultural products, says a report published by China Economic Net (CEN) on Tuesday.

Reviewing the overall scope of China-Pakistan cooperation in agriculture sector, the report says Pakistan is amassing a large amount of idle land to build a China-Pakistan agricultural demonstration base and introduce China’s advanced agricultural scientific facilities and technologies.

Promoting bilateral cooperation in the agricultural industry will boost bilateral agricultural development and exports, and bring the Belt and Road Initiative to new levels, noted Liu Yadan, Vice Secretary-General of China Agriculture Association for International Exchange.

She also said, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, its affiliated research institutes and some agricultural units have already cooperated with Pakistan in areas of planting and processing, cattle and sheep disease prevention and control, and cotton cultivation.

Apart from favourable policies, well-established infrastructure also adds lustre to Pakistan as an investment destination. Thanks to the infrastructure, which has been put in place under the first phase of CPEC, the barren border areas have now surged into a logistics powerhouse for Pakistan and KP’s economic crops such as tobacco, olives, tea, date palms and honey could quickly reach ports and airports for exports, remarked Hassan Daud Butt, CEO of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment & Trade.

As further bonuses, the KP government will provide potential Chinese enterprises with subsidies in land lease and reductions in corporate income tax, transportation fees and import and export tariffs.

“We hope that Chinese companies will establish foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) -free areas as soon as possible and invest in food processing industrial parks, slaughterhouses, agricultural special economic zones in KP, especially in the less developed areas, which will provide a great return on investment,” Hassan Daoud Bhat said.

In response, Nong Rong, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan noted that China will introduce more Pakistani agricultural products as well as beef and mutton products to the Chinese market by strengthening communication and coordination with Pakistan to lay out inspection and quarantine procedures of cherries, potatoes and other agricultural products, and speed up the construction of FMD-free areas.

China-Pakistan agricultural cooperation has an origin of long standing. For example, bilateral tea cooperation can be dated back to 40 years. Muhammad Khurshid, Technical Advisor Rustam Tea and Organic Farming Pakistan, told CEN that tea plantations in Mansehra were set up in the 1980s with Chinese support.

China-Pakistan cooperation is also present in other cash crops in Pakistan, such as date palms, honey and dairy products. Chinese honey products enterprises attended the China-Pakistan Agricultural Products Processing Cooperation and Exchange Forum held on June 23, and many of them have invested in countries along the Belt and Road initiative.

According to Guo Qi, supply director of Beijing Zhibeitang Health Technology Co., Ltd., which has imported propolis and honey raw materials from South America, the Middle East and Central Asia, the enterprise is interested in cooperating with Pakistan in honey after learning about the premium quality of Pakistani honey.

Pakistan not only hopes that Chinese companies enter Pakistan, but also hopes that its products can be exported to China.

Ali Salman, Executive Director of Policy Research Institute of Market Economy, illustrated his ambition with two contrasting figures. He said that China imported about USD 90.8 billion of food from all over the world in 2019, while Pakistan’s current food exports to China are less than USD 5 million. He hopes that Pakistani foods can gain a greater share of the Chinese market.

At the China-Pakistan Agricultural Products Processing Cooperation and Exchange Forum held on June 23, one of the words that came up frequently was “potential”, which was mentioned in terms of export potential, cooperation potential and growth potential. To this end, industry insiders of the two sides continue to seek the convergence of interests between Chinese and Pakistani industries.

“I’m requesting the experts sitting over here, just to help formulate plans on how to translate Pakistan’s agricultural potential into export or business model, or be a source of income or remittances for the country,” Shah Farman said sincerely.

As the fourth session of China-Pakistan Agricultural and Industrial Cooperation Information Platform Seminar, the forum will create opportunities for exchanges and cooperation, and contribute to the mutual benefit and win-win situation of the agricultural processing industries of the two countries.

There is ample room for cooperation. CPEC is entering a new stage of high-quality development, with a focus on industrial and agricultural cooperation. The two countries are highly complementary in agricultural trade, intensive processing, cold chain storage and improving crop yield, which is of profound significance to Pakistan. “Increasing agricultural cooperation between China and Pakistan is part of Pakistan’s social-economic development strategy,” emphasized Abdul Karim Khan.

Statistics show that from July to December 2020, Pakistan’s food exports stood at USD 25 million, far lower than the USD 2 billion home textile export and USD 1.2 billion ready-to-wear garment export, even less than the tobacco industry which records an export of USD 29 million in the same period.

To tap into such a rich repertoire of resources, both Pakistani officials and agricultural experts are eager for Chinese investments and technologies, and offer to devise favourable land policies. Asim Saleem Bajwa, Chairman of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority said, the KP government has provided a large amount of land to local investors and encouraged them to set up joint ventures with Chinese enterprises. “We have the potential and are ready for it in the next three years,” said Shah Farman.