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Seeds reap rewards in BRI regions

Updated: Oct 29, 2019 China Daily Print

China's exports of homegrown, high-end seeds to countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative have seen a major surge in recent years, according to the head of the sector's top business chamber in China.

"The exports of such seeds not only benefit the production volume of BRI countries and regions, but also lead to greater momentum in developed countries including Australia and some European Union countries," said Tian Weihong, secretary-general of the China National Seed Trade Association under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

A prime example are the 12 new varieties of broccoli, a research fruition of the Tianjin Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which have seen a sharp growth in exports, from 1,500 kilograms in 2017 to 3,500 kg this year.

"The seeds have been exported and planted in Pakistan, India and Vietnam, a departure from past times when China used to import broccoli from overseas," said Shan Xiaozheng, who heads broccoli research at the academy.

Shan attributed the surge in exports to research and development efforts at the academy.

"We have conducted genome sequencing research on up to 6,800 varieties of the vegetable," he said.

This year, the academy completed the world's first genome sequencing of cauliflower, positioning China at the pinnacle of the world's cauliflower research.

Broccoli is a branch under the cauliflower, and dedicated efforts in the breeding of the domestically developed, high-end varieties have paid off, the researcher said.

In addition, Tianjin Food Group announced dual harvest in both its domestic and Bulgaria-based projects this October.

Company insiders say that its farmlands, based in the municipality of Parvomay in Bulgaria, have seen their greatest harvest over the past four years, and the volume of paddy rice will grow by 23 percent on average to hit 8,208 kg per hectare.

"This great harvest is a result of the seeds cultivated by the academy and the group," said Zhang Yong, Tianjin Food Group's CEO.

In the farmlands, the food group plants paddy rice, rapeseed, sunflower and corn and provides professional experts to support the planting.

In May 2011, the company founded a subsidiary in the southeastern European country. To date, its investment has hit $58.6 million in the country.

Muhammad Siddiq, managing director of Kora Seeds Co in Pakistan, said his company's seed imports from China have grown by 20 to 30 percent in recent years due to "the quality and reasonable prices".

Lu Feng-general manager of Beijing-based Atlas Seeds Co which has sold about 100 metric tons of seeds per year to Pakistan over the past 10 years-said the company has seen annual sales growth of 10 to 20 percent due to the competence of its research center.

"In recent years, BRI countries have tightened policies in seed imports," Feng said. "However, Chinese companies benefit from the policies' disciplinary management and law-abiding commitment, and their business performance is even better."

Cui Yehan, an official at the Development Center for Science and Technology under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, indicated that in recent years, Chinese companies have devoted much more attention to intellectual property rights protection in advanced vegetable plantations involving great scientific and technological devotion.

Last year, the number of Chinese companies and research organs that applied for Plant Variety Protection certificates-the IPR protection certificates in the sector-hit a record high of 4,854, he said.

Statistics from the China National Seed Trade Association indicated that China's seed exports went from earning $132 million in 2000 to $694 million in 2018.

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