On 7 July 2018, the Minister of Rural Affairs of Estonia, Tarmo Tamm, together with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, took part in the meeting of government leaders of Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) and China and the high-level economic forum in Sofia, where Minister Tamm and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, Han Changfu, signed the action plan for furthering cooperation in agriculture in 2018-2022 between Estonia and China.
„The action plan is necessary for furthering practical cooperation and creating ties in various fields, such as agricultural trade, science and technology and rural life development,” Tarmo Tamm explained. According to the minister, the cooperation between the two countries is great, which is why it is an advantageous time to set new goals.
Getting access into the Chinese market is a long and labour-intensive process, which includes the compliance evaluation of our monitoring system and enterprises to the Chinese import regulations and registering businesses with an interest in exporting to China. Estonia and China have signed a number of food safety protocols over the past few years and the number of Estonian food products admitted to the Chinese market is on the rise. “The Chinese market is vast and appealing to the Estonian farmers and food industry. In 2017, the total value of food products sold to China was 6.3 million euros, which is up one-fifth from the previous year,” Minister Tamm described the situation.
The action plan also highlights the cooperation in agricultural science and technology, where Estonia has already made some progress. “The Estonian Crop Research Institute and Liaoning Academy of Agricultural Sciences signed a cooperation agreement last fall in order to create a joint potato laboratory and cooperate in research related to potato genetics and breeding. The main problem for potato breeding in China is creating resistance to droughts and diseases, which is why they are interested in the Estonian knowledge and expertise,” Tarmo Tamm said. Estonia is interested in Chinese grain varieties and innovative growing technologies, which could be implemented in growing various cultures here. In addition, we wish to find cooperation partners among Chinese agricultural universities to develop cooperation in food technology and garden produce processing. We have had meetings with Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin, although we have not reached any specific cooperation projects just yet.
The Minister of Rural Affairs also took part in the plenary session of the Heads of Government for CEEC and China, where an overview was given on the results of the cooperation between the two parties and the participants agreed to the so-called Sofia guidelines for further cooperation.
Background information on agricultural cooperation between Estonia and China
The requirements for agricultural products and food exported into China vary depending on the risk level of the product. Low-risk level products (e.g. alcohol, drinking water) can be exported into China by all producers who have found a reliable contract partner on location. However, products with a high-level risk to the health of consumers and animals, i.e. animals and animal products (meat and meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish and fish products) will have to go through a monitoring process by China and receive an according license.
Over recent years, Estonia and China have signed several food safety protocols and the number of Estonian food products admitted to the Chinese market is increasing. Food safety is the most important issue in China and, therefore, food safety requirements are high. Getting access for various product groups into the Chinese market is a labour-intensive process, which includes the compliance evaluation of our monitoring system and enterprises to the Chinese import regulations and, in some cases, registering businesses with an interest of exporting to China by the competent authority.
Estonian fish processing enterprises are able to export certain fish species and their products into the Chinese market. Five dairy processing enterprises are able to export their dairy products (for example, Solbritt recently received permission to export follow-on milk powder for infants into China). We are working on a state level to acquire Chinese import licenses for Salmoniformes and we are in the final phase of being able to export chicken meat and edible parts of chicken to China.
Estonian enterprises have expressed interest in also exporting other products that currently lack an import license, e.g. pork, which currently cannot be acquired because of the spread of African swine fever. This is because China does not acknowledge our zoning principles, which is why an import ban has been set for pork from any part of the country. In 2017, the total value of food products sold to China was 6.3 million euros, which is up 17% compared to 2016.
The Estonian Crop Research Institute has been working with Liaoning Academy of Agricultural Sciences since 2010. However, more serious agreements were first made last year in autumn, when a cooperation agreement was reached for creating a joint potato laboratory and establishing scientific cooperation in potato genetics and breeding. The main problem for potato breeding in China is creating resistance to droughts and diseases. They are interested in the Estonian knowledge and expertise in breeding disease-resistant potato varieties. For the Estonian Crop Research Institute this is an opportunity to export their knowledge, experience and expertise to China. The cooperation with Liaoning Academy of Agricultural Sciences will also include a mutual exchange of scientists and breeders.