New Developments, New Opportunities: 2019 Sino-German Agribusiness Conference held in Beijing
by Juan Marquardt
On the occasion of the China visit of the German Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Ms Julia Klöckner, the 2019 Sino-German Agribusiness Conference was held on 14 June in Kunlun Hotel, Beijing. The conference organized by the DCZ team was jointly sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) and the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). About 250 participants attended the conference, among them governmental officials of MARA, BMEL, the German Embassy in China, representatives of Chinese and German food and agribusiness enterprises, agricultural policy research institutions and technology research institutions, Chinese and German public media and news agencies as well as the delegation accompanying the German minister.
Mr. Qu Dongyu, Vice Minister of MARA, and Ms. Julia Klöckner, Minister of BMEL, attended the conference opening session and delivered welcome speeches. In the keynote session high-ranking Chinese government officials and representatives of Chinese think tanks delivered an informative overview of the impressive development of Chinese agriculture and the related policy framework. According to Prof. Ye Xingqing, Director General of the Rural Economic Research Department of the Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council, China’s agricultural sector is confronted with challenges such as the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides or the limited productivity and efficiency due to small-scale and household-based farming. Mr. Liu Guangming, Division Director, Department of Policy and Reform of MARA, explained how China is addressing these issues with the ongoing land use right reform. For instance, in the past four decades, the household land contracting period ranging between 15 and 30 years has been extended to the maximum of 75 years. The separation of the “three rights” (namely the collective ownership, the household contract ownership right and the land management right) will allow the land transfer and circulation from smallholders to cooperatives and large land managers. The Chinese government expects that the reform of land tenure will increase productivity and encourage investment into agriculture. The land tenure reform is intended to increase the size of farms and accelerate the adoption of modern agricultural technologies, such as digital agriculture and precision farming technologies.
In the session on sustainable agriculture development delegates of large German and Chinese companies (such as CLAAS, Alibaba, Syngenta, BASF, Bayer and Debont) presented the sustainability strategies of their respective companies. Johannes Buschmeier, Managing Director of Agriculture & Finance Consultants GmbH (AFC), gave information of the Sino-German Crop Production and Agrotechnology Demonstration Park (DCALDP) in Jiangsu. In this project, nine German agribusiness partners demonstrate machinery and provide extension services to promote sustainable agriculture.
In the afternoon session, projects and experiences of enterprises in the field of sustainable and environmentally friendly animal husbandry were presented. Company presentations were given by Boehringer Ingelheim, the pig farm Beijing Liuma and Big Dutchman, a German company providing equipment for pig and chicken farms. According to Mr. Benz, CEO of Big Dutchman China, his company has accomplished several achievements in improving farm animal welfare. For example, Big Dutchman promotes the dual-purpose chicken, a chicken race that can be used as layer hen as well as broiler. The dual-purpose hens lay 50 eggs less per year than specialized layer hens and need to be fed longer for meat production, however, introducing the dual-purpose chicken offers a solution for the questionable and widely criticized practice of sorting out and shredding male chicks. Dr. Sven Grupe, team leader of the Sino-German Animal Husbandry Cooperation Project – a project that cooperates with 19 Chinese pig and dairy farms – reported on the project’s major activities including the training workshops on manure management and an inventory on greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation strategies.
In the final panel discussion moderated by Ms. Hu Zhe from China Daily, Ms. Li Yumei from the China Agriculture University, Mr. Gao Yong from Bayer, Mr. Stephan Lange from Boehringer Ingelheim, Ms. Alexandra Brand from Syngenta and Mr. Liu Hanwu from Debont discussed the question “Who learns what from whom?”
Ms. Brand suggested that Germany could learn from China in terms of speed, whereas Germany could be a model for safety precautions. Mr. Lange from Boehringer agreed and recommended biosafety as a topic where both countries should collaborate. Prof. Li Yumei referred to German environmental policy and suggested that China could learn from Germany that agriculture is also a lifestyle and a traditional culture that need to be preserved. Mr. Liu Hanwu mentioned cost management as a factor where China could learn from Germany, whereas China’s recent achievements in information technology could be a model for the German side.
The panelists concluded that China and Germany are facing similar challenges, such as coping with environmental pollution as a result of intensive agriculture and ensuring food safety. In order to find solutions, both countries need to share experiences and best practices.
In addition, the panelists suggested a continuation and intensification of the Sino-German cooperation in the fields of digital and smart agriculture, environmentally friendly livestock production and technology development, machinery manufacture, e-commerce, food safety, adaptation of agriculture to climate change, as well as a further intensification of the policy dialogue. However, as Ms. Brand remarked collaboration in these fields needs investment and, therefore, she suggested that also financial institutions should be invited to future agribusiness dialogues.