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China's farming heritage, innovation to stem agriculture trade deficit with New Zealand


09:59, May 01, 2013

WELLINGTON, April 30 (Xinhua) -- The tide of agricultural exports from New Zealand to China could begin to balance out under a new bilateral agreement to promote agricultural cooperation, the head of New Zealand's farming industry body told Xinhua Tuesday.

The Strategic Plan on Promoting Agricultural Cooperation signed by the two countries' agriculture ministers last week was an " historic" agreement given it came the same week as figures showing China had emerged as New Zealand's largest trading partner in the quarter to March, said Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills.

The agreement to share knowledge and expertise would prove invaluable to New Zealand despite its current position as a world leader in agricultural production, Wills said in a phone interview.

"We can't assume we know all there is to know about agriculture and we can't assume we're world leaders in everything. There's a lot of stuff the Chinese do that might become relevant to New Zealand in time," he said.

Citing the example of the Chinese gooseberry, which New Zealand farmers developed and marketed as the "kiwifruit," Wills said China had much to offer after developing agriculture over thousands of years and on terrain stretching from snow-clad mountains to desert regions.

"Dryland rice is one product that could be beneficial to New Zealand. We don't grow rice here at the moment, but with the onset of global warming, warmer and dryer areas might struggle with traditional pastoral farming," said Wills.

"There's no question that in time New Zealand will have to look at other opportunities."

PGG Wrightson, New Zealand's largest agricultural services and a leading seed development company, which is controlled by China- based Agria Corporation, could also end up exporting back to New Zealand as it stepped up research and development in China.

"We may need to be buying seed back. It's a bit arrogant to assume we can keep being world leaders," he said.

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