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FAO China calls for strengthening agricultural collaboration under the Belt and Road Initiative

Beijing (17 January 2017) — China Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Vincent Martin, has called for increased collaboration between FAO, member governments, and other development partners to help achieve the poverty alleviation and rural development goals of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Vincent Martin made the opening remark and keynote statement at the opening ceremony of the Forum on Agricultural Collaboration in Support of the Belt and Road Initiative held in Beijing today. Ma Hongtao, Deputy Director-General of Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), delivered keynote statement on behalf of the ministry.

“The aim of FAO collaboration is to maximize the poverty alleviation and rural development impact of Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt & Road Initiative involves huge investments in transportation and communications infrastructure. Matching these investments with much smaller investments supporting well designed complementary measures, the Belt and Road Initiative can make very substantial poverty alleviation achievements.” said Vincent Martin. “FAO is well positioned to provide the technical expertise to support the rural development goals of the BRI, but putting that expertise to work effectively will require the joint efforts of many parties.”

China has a long agricultural history, and agricultural exchanges and trade were an important part of the ancient Silk Road. Today agriculture still accounts for 25% or more of GDP in many Belt and Road countries, while the greatest concentration of poverty is generally found in rural areas. Agricultural cooperation provides the best opportunity to fight hunger, eradicate poverty, and achieve food and nutrition security. Mr. Martin noted that a revitalized agricultural sector also creates opportunities for youth employment and rural entrepreneurship.

During the one day forum, more than 160 government officials, academics and executives from different sectors discussed opportunities for agricultural cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative in the areas of promoting inclusive value chain development, bringing innovation to the field through e-agriculture, control of transboundary animal and plant diseases through a One Health approach, as well as discussion on innovation and partnership. These are areas in which FAO has expertise and which are also important to the success of the Belt & Road Initiative.

The Forum also aims to collect and solicit feedback and to seek partnerships for future collaboration among FAO, governments, financial institutions, civil society as well as the private sector. Mr. Martin noted that FAO plans to establish a Center for Agricultural Innovation and Partnership to coordinate the efforts of FAO and other partners promoting agricultural cooperation.

The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 with an aim to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

FAO has been the first international organization to develop a specific framework to reinforce policy coordination in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative with relation to the agricultural sector.

During the latest visit of FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva with Mr. Han Changfu, Minister of Agriculture of the PRC last year, the two sides reached a consensus that FAO and China Ministry of Agriculture would further promote the Belt and Road Initiative through a variety of forms of national and regional cooperation to enlarge the multilateral "South-South Cooperation" and expand knowledge and information sharing.

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