Formation of regional and global strategic movements around the world in the present century has led to geo-strategic and geo-economic partnerships among countries. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the best examples of such partnerships that has provided multiple and tremendous benefits to both sides, especially Pakistan in various sectors.
Pakistan’s agriculture sector remained crucial for the country’s economic development, so China under the CPEC is revitalizing the country’s agriculture sector and combating the challenge of food insecurity.
China has also recently unveiled its “No. 1 central document” for 2023, outlining nine tasks in comprehensively promoting rural revitalization this year. The policy initiative indicates another opening for Pakistan to collaborate with China for agriculture promotion which has a huge potential. Pakistan, basically an agri-based country, can massively turn around its economy through collaboration with China.
Under the Pak-China cooperation, the Pakistan-China space and agricultural cooperation hit a new milestone last year, after the Chinese authorities sent seven varieties of Pakistani seeds to a space station for six months before returning them to the South Asian country to facilitate a major food security experiment.
This initiative shows that China’s space program is open for cooperation with any country while on the other side China has extended full-fledged support to Pakistan for modernizing the agriculture sector.
Agriculture sector has emerged as a direct as well as indirect beneficiary of CPEC via development in backward and forward linkages. Agriculture has been the backbone of low-income economies. It is generally the primary source of income and employment in rural areas. Agriculture sector of Pakistan has continuously been facing downfall during the last one decade.
The CPEC Long-Term Plan (LTP) envisages significant development of the agriculture sector of Pakistan that has a huge potential for enhancing its agriculture exports to the international community. Under this plan, there is a focus on increasing the use of modern machinery and synthetic fertilizers to enhance the yields, while food storage and processing zones would be constructed to reduce significant post-harvest losses.
Similarly, the building of cold storage stations and meat processing plants is also being planned to enhance productivity of livestock and fisheries sectors besides making their output more competitive in the international market. Being one of the countries included in the BRI initiative, Pakistan can benefit from China’s increased food import dependence and gradual transition towards high value addition in the agriculture sector.
China is planning to outsource its agriculture supplies in the form of joint ventures by investing in and developing processing zones, warehouses, dairy farming and cold storage stations in Pakistan. It was recorded at the end of last year that the agriculture sector has gained manifold traction under China-Pakistan agriculture cooperation promising the phenomenal agriculture growth in the length and breadth of Pakistan.
Given the comprehensive spectrum of cooperation under “CPEC Green Corridor” throughout the year in 2022, the agriculture sector has recorded a remarkable growth of 4.4% and surpassed the target of 3.5% as well as last year’s growth of 3.48% during FY2022.
Since Sino-Pak agriculture has continued to deepen in 2022, Pakistan’s agricultural products exported to China from January to August 2022 reached $730 million with a year-on-year increase of 28.59% and its agricultural exports to China are expected to exceed a record high of $1 billion next year.
On the back of 2022 agri sector’s milestone achievement, the focus of year 2023 under CPEC Green Corridor will be continuing on improving land cultivation area, water management, better access to markets for inputs (seeds, fertilizers, farm mechanization, credit, water) and outputs, improved infrastructure including storage and cooling facilities, reduction in post-harvest losses, greater investment in research, development and extension, improved quality and fulfillment of quarantine requirements for international markets and competitiveness, greater diversification, especially minor but high-value crops, farm input and effectiveness of markets.
The announcement of three new corridors under CPEC including China-Pakistan Green Corridor (CPGC), which focuses on agricultural environment and food security, speaks volumes about the significance of agricultural cooperation in CPEC.
According to a news report a few weeks ago, China’s maize-soybean strip intercropping technology completed harvest at 65 demonstration sites in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa recently, and the production of maize and soybeans reached 8,490 kg and 889 kg per hectare respectively in the intercropped fields. Compared with the production of solely cropped maize and soybeans at these 65 sites which are 8,995 kg and 1,531 kg per hectare respectively, the intercropping technology definitely creates much more economic benefits.
Good news is that the researchers are also developing the strip intercropping systems of maize-peanut, maize-pea, sugarcane-soybean, sugarcane-mustard, wheat-mustard, wheat-soybean, wheat-chickpea, potato-maize and canola-pea.
Another healthy development in the agriculture sector happened in June 2022 when a newly developed centre at Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi (AAUR), the CPEC-Agriculture Cooperation Centre (ACC), announced to perform policy research, assist Chinese businesses in working in the agriculture sector, and foster institutional cooperation. Pakistan is also looking forward to enhancing banana production with Chinese cooperation.
According to Nosherwan Haider, CEO of the Sprouts Biotech Laboratories, Pakistan contributes less than 0.5% to the global banana market whereas China contributes about 4.5%.
Cotton germplasm is another significant component in Pak-China agricultural cooperation. For many years, China and Pakistan have cooperated in the field of gathering and identifying cotton germplasm resources.
In order to determine which cotton germplasms are resistant to heat, drought, diseases, and insect pests in various locations and environments, Institute of Cotton Research (ICR) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), collaborated with Cotton Research Institute (CRI), Multan, University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF), and some other universities and scientific research institutions.
During July, 2022, Tianjin Modern Vocational Technology College (TMVTC), China and MNS-University of Agriculture, Multan (MNSUAM), Pakistan signed an online agreement for an agricultural machinery training program of Luban Workshop in Pakistan. The two institutions will jointly promote the sci-tech exchanges and cooperation on agricultural machinery, germplasm resources and agricultural environment. Earlier this year, Zhang Jishu from Sichuan Litong Food Co., Ltd. announced that his company would implement a 1,000-acre pepper cultivation demonstration garden in Multan during the 2022-2023 growing season.
In partnership with local agribusinesses and farmers in Pakistan, it intends to take over 15,000 acres of pepper orders in South Punjab, with a planned harvest of 30,000 tonnes of dried pepper. Additionally, the company intends to construct two pepper processing plants in Lahore and Multan and is in the process of locating suitable sites.
Pakistan is also working to grow the sorghum crops as, along with the three main basic foods of the globe, sorghum is a crop that has increasingly gained acceptance around the world. Therefore, Pakistan’s cooperation under CPEC has huge potential to gain new agri-technology from China and revolutionize its agricultural sector.