EU-China delegation

Last autumn's delegation to China. Photo: CEJA Young Farmers (Twitter @_CEJA_)

A delegation of young Chinese farmers is this week visiting a selection of Belgian agricultural businesses in order to learn first-hand about sustainable and environmentally friendly practices and innovative agricultural techniques, according to a report in VILT, the Flemish information centre for agriculture and horticulture.

The project is supported by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the European Commission whose Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) contains a unit focusing on trade contacts with countries including Asia and Australia.

'We work on three fronts,' says head of department Antonia Gamez Moreno. 'On the one hand, we are promoting European agricultural products in that region. In May, for example, European Commissioner Phil Hogan went to a trade fair in Shanghai with 70 European company managers to make their products more public. '

Another important task of the unit is to enter into dialogue with third countries. 'It's about consultation, not about negotiations,' she todl VILT. 'We have discussions about food safety, phytosanitary and sanitary regulations, climate change, environmental measures, etc. With China, we are currently focusing on organic agricultural products and the recognition of geographical designations of origin.'

The third front the unit is working on is cooperation with the Asian and Australian region. 'We have signed a cooperation plan with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture,” said Gamez Moreno. “One of the action points of that plan is to bring young farmers from China and the EU into contact with each other so that there can be exchanges about good agricultural practices and innovative techniques.”

A delegation of young EU farmers and horticulturalists travelled to China last autumn for a series of company visits.On 15-28 April, it is the turn of young farmers from China to visit Belgium, as well as the UK and Estonia.

In Belgium, the delegation is due to visit the European Commission, the BelOrta auction and the Research Station for Vegetable Growing in Sint-Katelijne-Waver.

The delegation was set to visit the fruit farm of organic pioneer Danny Billens in Gooik, a mark of the increasing demand for organics in China as the country’s middle class grows.

According to Gamez Moreno, work still needs to be done in China regarding checks on organic certificates. “Bio benefits from having good control systems in place,” she said. “Otherwise there is a chance that consumers will lose confidence. A conclusive review is also essential for trade with the EU.”

Discussions also centred on the future of e-commerce globally and the best ways to combat invasive insects.