Deepen Sino-Italian civil cooperation and promote agricultural innovation


4' di lettura

If you have a half-day leisure time and want a quick glimpse of Italian agriculture and food, go to the “Eataly” supermarket -- a “slow food supermarket restaurant” born in 2004 in the old industrial brewery of Lingotto, Turin and now coming onto the world stage. It brings together typical agricultural products and foods from all over Italy; goods are sourced directly from small producers, while the core marketing idea is about diet education.
The foundation for gathering a large number of quality cuisines provides a strong agricultural advantage. As the second largest agricultural country in the European Union, Italy has great advantages in the fields of ecological organic agriculture, geographical indication for agricultural product, rural environmental energy, agricultural cultural heritage and rural tourism, with world-leading technologies in agricultural machinery, food processing and packaging equipment. These advantages exist not only because of Italy's long-standing agricultural civilization, technological innovation of producers, strict requirements for quality and safety standards, but also their respect for the tradition in agricultural culture and the protection of the environment and biodiversity.

Does this favored supermarket provide Chinese agricultural products? Ginger, grapefruit, tea leaves and pepper are definitely produced in China, or perhaps some tomato sauce. Now, the ingredients from the East are no longer rare; they have long become part of the daily food for Italians. Behind this change is the booming agricultural cooperation between the two countries.
Both China and Italy have a long splendid agricultural civilization and a rich and exquisite food culture. That's why agriculture has always been a key area for exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.
At the “First Sino-Italian Agricultural Food Forum” held during the first China International Import Expo in 2018, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the PRC: “In 2017, Sino-Italian bilateral agricultural trade reached a total of 1.2 billion US dollars, an increase of 53.5% over 2010, with an average annual growth rate of 7.4%, among which China's imports from Italy grew at an average annual rate of 12%, far exceeding the 4% increase in China's exports to Italy.” According to the statistics provided by Italian authorities, the import and export trade volume of China and Italy was 42 billion euros in 2017, of which Italy's agricultural exports to China added up to nearly 450 million euros. These figures revealed that Sino-Italian agricultural trade still has a small investment scale and a slow growth rate, when a comparison was made between the economic scales of the two countries, and between the agricultural trade volumes between China and other countries.
There is strong complementarity and great potential in Sino-Italian agricultural cooperation, rendering a broad prospect. China has become the world's biggest agricultural product consumer market and an important agricultural foreign investment country. At present, China is implementing the “Village Revitalization Strategy”, deepening the construction of the “Belt and Road” and the structural reform of the agricultural supply side, and promoting agricultural modernization and high-quality development. All these efforts have helped bring unprecedented new opportunities to facilitate the further cooperation between China and Italy.


With the steady advancement of Sino-Italian intergovernmental cooperation, which areas will be further strengthened in the civil agricultural cooperation between the two countries?
First, we should have a full knowledge about China's economic development and market changes in recent years. With the change of age structure of consumers, they are more inclined to buy higher-quality products with cultural values and better prices. Italian companies must respond quickly and accurately to these market changes and make marketing strategies that show respect for Chinese culture and adapt to China's national conditions.

Second, while strengthening bilateral agricultural food trade, we should focus more on promoting advanced agricultural technology cooperation, like the water-saving technology from Israel and the greenhouse technology from the Netherlands. We have encouraged enterprises to set up technology demonstration parks at different regions to enable technology trade to drive product trade. This model is a great success in China and shows a more lasting impact than simply developing bilateral food and agricultural products.
Third, both China and Italy have distinctive global agricultural heritage. With the help of FAO, they may pair their cooperation in their own heritage site to promote together the exchanges and cooperation in ecological agriculture concepts, excellent agricultural culture, special delicious products, and leisure rural tourism.

Fourth, China has made tremendous progress in the field of Internet application technology, including mobile payment, agricultural big data, blockchain, rural e-commerce, smart agriculture, digital village and other technological innovations. This will help Italy better develop the Chinese market, and also introduce China's advanced experience into Italy to help forward their digital agriculture.

Finally, to address the long-term inability among small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises to open up each other's market, we may strengthen the civic financial cooperation and promote mutual investment, relying on the support from financial capital market to establish an effective cooperation platform, helping Sino-Italian SMEs to establish interconnection and carry out agricultural trade, and providing innovative cooperation mode for promoting the “Belt and Road” Initiative and realizing the development of Sino-Italian agriculture.

Zhang Xin
Former FAO Consultant,
World Agriculture Heritage Foundation
Representative at Asia Pacific Region

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