Narrow bridges

Coconut cultivation bridges China-South Pacific friendship, ‘most effective way’ to improve local people’s lives

The Groundbreaking Ceremony of the Standardized Coconut Plantation in the Federated States of Micronesia Photo: Courtesy of Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences

For the vast South Pacific countries that have abundant tropical resources but lack the talent and technology to take advantage of these resources, external support in the sector is the most effective way for nations in the region to see timely economic benefits – an effort that China has been making for years and is now becoming one of the mainstays of cooperation with some countries in the region.

By warding off the headwinds of the coronavirus in recent years, China has dispatched agricultural experts, companies, held online training courses to help local farmers, officials and companies better understand planting technology to industrial culture, bringing tangible benefits to the local economy; Industry players expect more from such cooperation amid a rapprochement after Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the region.

Wang paid an official visit to the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor by invitation from Friday, June 4, and will also visit Micronesia via video and have a virtual meeting. with leaders of the Cook Islands and Niue. Observers believe the trip will be a milestone for relations between China and the entire region.

Wang’s trip is expected to cover cooperation and agreements in a wide range of areas, including economy, infrastructure, climate change, public health, police and security, experts said.

Agricultural cooperation is already producing results. An example is an online training in Kiribati, a South Pacific country whose main industry is coconuts. In November 2021, under the coordination of the Chinese Embassy in Kiribati, the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences and local authorities jointly organized a training video conference on the comprehensive use of the coconut industry, with more than 100 participants representing Chinese experts and business representatives.

Participants exchanged views on improving the value of existing coconut products, exporting coconut products to China, and improving the research capacity of development of the coconut industry by visiting China in the future.

The Coconut Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences has also developed a plan for the selection of Kiribati coconut processing technology and equipment, with the aim of helping local coconut industry to develop better, Xu Lijing, director of the Center for International Exchange and Cooperation, Coconut Research Institute, told the Global Times on Friday.

Another project is taking place in the Federated States of Micronesia, where China has helped build a standardized coconut plantation. The planting, also a flagship project under China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative, is becoming an important base for the demonstration and promotion of agricultural technologies in the country.

In addition, three training courses have also been organized for local people in recent years. Through the demonstration of wide and narrow row coconut planting patterns and a variety of economic three-dimensional models of coconut orchards, local farmers understood standardized coconut production techniques and also learned the biological pest and disease control technology, introduced Mr. Xu.

Due to reasons such as underdeveloped land and agricultural technology, agricultural commodities cannot meet the needs of local people in Micronesia, and the high cost of agricultural production and backward technology make it difficult for local people to earn money through agricultural production. For Micronesia, agricultural technical assistance is the most direct and effective way to improve the quality of life for local people, Xu said.

Coconut Disease Control Technology Training held in Federated States of Micronesia in 2018 Photo: Courtesy of Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences

Since the South Pacific is a typical tropical region, with abundant tropical plant resources, observers said there is huge space for cooperation in the cultivation of new varieties of tropical crops for China and other countries. of the region in the future.

Liu Ze, general secretary of the Solomon Islands Chinese Business Council, told the Global Times that with abundant sunshine and rich freshwater resources, South Pacific countries, including the Solomon Islands, are suitable for the cultivation of all tropical plants, such as coconut and palm. .

Meanwhile, China can offer more help for the development of tropical plants in more varieties such as rubber, oil palm, cassava, coconut, coconut oil production, orchid vanilla and bananas, they said.

Fiji has abundant resources of arable land, with fertile soil and good weather, which is suitable for the growth of tropical agricultural crops, and the Fijian government is also encouraging Chinese investment in the island nation’s agricultural sector, Chen Canyan, chairman of the China Agriculture and Trade Development Association of Fiji, told the Global Times, indicating a wide area of ​​bilateral cooperation in the agricultural sector.

Chen also said that with the establishment of a logistics network and the opening of more logistics routes, it is expected that more tropical fruits and vegetables from Fiji will be able to enter Chinese markets.

China and Pacific island countries have agreed to boost mutually beneficial cooperation in agriculture in 2019. The decision came after a meeting held in Nadi, Fiji’s third-largest city, between Chinese Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and its counterparts in Pacific Island countries such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

“We believe that China and the Pacific Island States enjoy great potential for agricultural cooperation due to our mutual complementarity, and our future cooperation will be important in improving people’s well-being and deepening our comprehensive strategic partnership characterized by mutual respect and common development. “, said the ministers.