China is Tasmania’s largest export market for our agricultural produce, and is also our leading source of overseas tourists and students. Chinese consumers and investors will be increasingly important for the growth of Tasmanian agriculture as envisaged in the Sustainable Agri-Food Plan 2016-18 for an agri-food sector of $10B per annum by 2050.
Australian and Tasmanian Government policy is to further develop agricultural trade with China including services such as knowledge, technology and expert advice. The visit of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, to Hobart in November 2014 highlighted the opportunities for Tasmania in a developing cultural and economic relationship with China. It also increased awareness of Tasmania in China, particularly our pristine environment and premium food and beverage products.
In this context, NRM South took the initiative to develop a relationship with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) to progress knowledge and practice in sustainable agriculture and natural resource management consistent with future plans in Tasmania and China.
China has embarked on a long-term plan to modernise its agriculture with more sustainable farming practices, better natural resource management, environmental improvement and increasing production of safe and healthy food.
CAAS (http://www.caas.cn/en/),the preeminent agricultural research institution in China, is the leading player in the modernisation of China’s agriculture. In 2013, it was given responsibility for the Government’s Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Program (ASTIP). The Program aims to promote novel innovations and leverage research results to solve specific agricultural problems in China. ASTIP also seeks to build capacity in agricultural research and practice and foster international cooperation.
NRM South’s efforts to collaborate with CAAS are strongly supported by the Tasmanian and Australian Governments. With this support, significant progress has been made with several key activities being agreed to by CAAS and NRM South:
- The President of CAAS, Professor Tang Huajun, along with a delegation from the Academy, will be visiting Hobart in November 2017 to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NRM South for future cooperation in sustainable agriculture and natural resource management. During the visit, the President will meet with NRM South and the Tasmanian Government, visit the University of Tasmania, and visit several leading farms in southern Tasmania.
- NRM South has received a grant from the Australian Government under the Australia China Agriculture Cooperation Agreement Programme to host an Australia China Sustainable Agricultural Technology Forum in Tasmania in May 2018. The Forum will facilitate discussions between Chinese and Australian researchers and practitioners from the Australian regional natural resource management network for collaboration to meet the challenges and opportunities facing Australian and Chinese agriculture in the twenty first century. The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources stated:
“The Forum will include Australian participants and Chinese delegates, with presentations on Chinese and Australian agriculture, developments in agricultural RD&E in both countries, discussions on sustainable agricultural issues, sustainable agricultural technology demonstrations and farm visits to see best practice on the ground.”
- During the CAAS President’s visit and 2018 Forum further discussions will be undertaken in initiating joint research, development and extension projects in Tasmania and China. Initial projects being considered are:
- Soil nutrient and moisture management; and soil health remediation through science, technology and farming practices.
- Restoration of farmland waterways and water bodies for improved water quality on farmland and the adjoining environment.
- Sustaining healthy bee populations for bee products and pollination services.
- Mobilising stakeholder partnerships and involvement for NRM outcomes.
What is the value of the China initiative to NRM South, Tasmania and the Australian NRM network?
Mr Donald Coventry, Chief Executive Officer of NRM South, states that:
“The CAAS initiative represents a highly significant linkage for both Tasmania and Australia in the areas of agricultural trade and intellectual property and knowledge exchange, but also in relation to the globally critical need to produce more food whilst significantly reducing environmental harm. I believe that this area will increasingly be sought and recognised as a key knowledge industry and a key trading commodity for NRM organisations and Australia.”
Mr Coventry also states:
“For the concept of a Tasmanian brand, this partnership offers opportunities to build both substance and recognition of Tasmania as a leader in sustainable environmental and agricultural practice, to build links to premium markets in China and to assist in maintaining product differentiation into the future.”
The CAAS initiative has gained recognition from NRM South’s primary funders (the Australian and Tasmanian Governments) of the state-wide, national and international value of Tasmanian/Australian NRM knowhow, practices and institutional arrangements.
The southern Tasmanian community will gain from NRM South having access to more resources through links to CAAS to deliver high quality NRM services to the region into the foreseeable future.
In particular, the China initiative will:
- Demonstrate that NRM South’s knowledge and skills are valuable in building the scientific, cultural and commercial relationship between China, Tasmania and mainland Australia with regards to sustainable agriculture and the environment.
- Enable NRM South and other Australian regional NRM bodies to collaborate with the world’s most populous nation and, through this, address some of the global challenges of food security, conservation of the world’s natural resources and the impact of climate change.
- Facilitate access to the Chinese agriculture market and the services that China is seeking in sustainable agriculture and NRM.
- Foster the adoption of innovative sustainable agricultural practices in southern Tasmania where similar agricultural practices are being adopted in China as a result of joint projects.
- Enable joint on-farm trials in China and Tasmania to demonstrate the transfer of proven science to practical farming that will benefit agricultural production and the environment.
- Allow NRM South and the other regional Australian NRM bodies to gain access to Chinese agricultural research and new technologies.
- Support codes of practice and/or standards based on proven science for sustainable agriculture and NRM in Tasmania to support the marketing of high quality and safe agricultural produce to consumers in China.
- Stimulate further trade between China, Tasmania and mainland Australia in agricultural services and high value agricultural products that can be marketed on the basis of sustainable production practices and evidence of provenance.