China’s Africa ties: why foodstuff is the brand new focus

Sunday March 19, 2023


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African merchandise on monitor at a commerce expo in China in 2021. Photo: Xinhua alt=African merchandise on monitor at a commerce expo in China in 2021. Photo: Xinhua

China is importing extra foodstuff merchandise similar to avocados, cashews, sesame seeds and chilli peppers from Africa, as agriculture emerges as the brand new focus of Beijing’s engagement with the continent.

In the primary two months of this yr, Shanghai ports dealt with greater than 40,000 tonnes of African agricultural merchandise really worth greater than US$100 million, in line with Shanghai Customs.

By March 3, a whole of 1,845 tonnes of African sesame had been imported because of Shanghai’s Waigaoqiao Port – 4.3 instances greater than within the identical interval final yr, official statistics confirmed.

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Africa produces about 65 per cent of the world’s sesame, and Chinese officers say African nations which includes Mali, Togo, Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda account for 90 per cent of China’s imports of the product.

“The Chinese love sesame and many other imports from Africa,” ambassador to Somalia Fei Shengchao pronounced.

“With greater peace and stability, I am sure Somali farmers will also have chances to export their cash crops to China and make lives better for themselves and the nation as a whole.”

A developing quantity of African merchandise are in excessive demand in China as component to Beijing’s broader technique to implement President Xi Jinping’s promise to amplify non-resource imports from Africa.

During the 2021 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Dakar, Senegal, Xi promised to open up “green lanes” for African agricultural merchandise, velocity up inspection and quarantine, and waive extra tariffs in order that imports might hit US$300 billion by 2025.

The Chinese overseas ministry pronounced final yr that because the 2018 FOCAC summit in Beijing, China had given market entry to 25 sorts of foodstuff and agricultural merchandise from 14 African nations, which includes Kenya, South Africa, Benin and Egypt.

The ministry pronounced China was the second-largest vacation spot for African agricultural exports, behind the European Union, and Chinese imports from Africa rose 18.2 per cent yr on yr in 2021.

Following accusations that it promoted an unhealthy commerce imbalance by principally importing uncooked substances similar to oil, cobalt and copper from Africa, China has pronounced it truly is eager to import avocados, soybean, sesame seeds, chilli peppers, cashews and spices.

Kenya and Tanzania are actually exporting avocados to China and South Africa is promoting extra fruit to it.

Wu Peng, director standard of the overseas ministry’s African affairs division, pronounced lately that Kenya would ship 20,000 tonnes of avocados to China this yr, and the primary batch had already arrived.

Kenya commenced exporting recent avocados to China final yr, constructing on a resolution in 2019 that allowed the import of frozen ones. Many Kenyan farmers couldn’t afford freezing apparatus.

South Africa is now the second-largest exporter of apples to China after New Zealand.

South Africa exported 17,200 tonnes of recent apples to China final yr, 40 per cent greater than in 2021, in line with EastFruit, an facts and analytics platform for the horticulture commercial enterprise. Apart from apples, South Africa can also be a key supply of citrus fruits.

Besides enabling the import of specific agricultural merchandise from Africa, Beijing has dropped 98 per cent of tariffs on merchandise from greater than a dozen nations throughout the continent, which includes Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Malawi, Sao Tome and Principe, and Zambia.

Yun Sun, director of the China programme on the Stimson Centre suppose tank in Washington, pronounced agriculture had emerged as the brand new focus of China’s engagement in Africa, partly considering the fact that “the past focus on hard infrastructure is no longer viable”.

“The Chinese have identified agricultural products from Africa as having significant potential in China,” Sun pronounced.

“The issue is agricultural trade has its limits in terms of volume. And it also raises the question about Africa’s need for industrialisation and where China stands on that from now on.”

She pronounced extra demand for African merchandise was not unavoidably a horrific factor for Africa. China had been sending extra agricultural professionals to Africa to assist strengthen crop construction and Chinese buyers had pumped funds into farming.

Paul Frimpong, government director of the Africa-China Centre for Policy and Advisory, pronounced Africa sat on 60 per cent of the world’s arable land – which represented a gigantic, untapped alternative.

But he pronounced that agricultural potential remained untapped considering the fact that the continent lacked ample funding in mechanised agriculture.

“China sees this opportunity and has therefore stepped up to provide the needed support,” Frimpong pronounced. “This will certainly create food security for China, but also for the continent.

“It is the model of partnership that Africa wants going ahead. Getting extra from our agricultural potential and creating foodstuff safety, jobs, rising export earnings from China by opening its markets to African exports.”

Lina Benabdallah, a visiting fellow at the Centre for African Studies at Harvard University, said launching agriculture demonstration centres across Africa was seen by Beijing as a way to share Chinese expertise and knowledge about best practices in growing food, maximising yields and responding to climate change challenges.

She said there was no evidence China was doing this to produce more food for itself. Rather, it was simply one of its areas of expertise and it was easy to establish cooperation based on that.

According to Mandira Bagwandeen, senior researcher at the University of Cape Town’s Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, the 2021 FOCAC summit had seen a noticeable shift in China’s priorities – from hard infrastructure development to trade and the development of other sectors, including agriculture.

She said China was focusing on agriculture because it was a sector with immense development potential that would be profitable for both Chinese and Africans.

“Although it truly is lowering its lending for mega infrastructure tasks, diverting monetary sources to the agricultural sector continues to be an extra approach for it to take care of a strategic financial standing in Africa,” Bagwandeen said.

She said China’s relative lack of arable land and massive population made it difficult for the country to be agriculturally self-sufficient, and Africa could fill the gap.

“But African governments ought to verify that the Chinese do not only come, harvest, and take,” Bagwandeen said.

“African officers ought to construction Chinese investments within the agriculture sector to assist advance and industrialise the agricultural business within the sector. An emphasis ought to be positioned on making certain know-how and competencies switch in agricultural science and practices.”

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