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China to import potatoes: envoy

ISLAMABAD: China plans to import potatoes from Pakistan, said Ambassador Yao Jing on Friday.

The envoy in a meeting with Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehboob Sultan said his country will shortly send a delegation to Islamabad to finalise arrangements and fulfilling the requirements sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS).

He said that Beijing wants to import more from Pakistan, especially food items are cherries, potato, wheat, citrus, rice and mangoes. China wants to build stronger socio-economic ties with Pakistan on the basis of reciprocity, he added.

Pakistan’s annual potato yield currently stands at around 4.2 million tonnes as against domestic requirement is 3.75m tonnes – leaving a sizable surplus. About 97 per cent of the vegetable is grown in Punjab while the rest in other provinces.

The fresh crop of potato, which hit the local market in early December 2018, will be ready for export by the end of January prior to the visit of Chinese delegation.

The country has already taken steps to promote the export of cotton for which a facilitation centre for exporters is already operational in Okara.

The envoy informed Sultan that hybrid rice seed experts from Pakistan will soon be invited to see and monitor the facilities in China.

The minister told Jing that the Pakistani government will soon make a decision on the import of Chinese hybrid rice seed.

Over the recent past, 29 rice hybrids were received from the Hubei Provincial Seed Group of China by Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, and tested at the Rice Research Institute at Dokri, Larkana. Eight of them were found promising with paddy yield of more than 100 maunds per acre.

At the institute, various local varieties were being converted for the development of indigenous rice hybrids. The Rice Research Programme has so far acquired more than 22,500 lines from the International Rice Research Institute in Philippines which are high-yielding with desirable grain quality.

The establishment of foot and mouth disease (FMD) free zone in Pakistan was also discussed and Sultan invited Chinese experts to visit three districts of Punjab which have been identified as FMD-free.

The minister informed the envoy that the first meeting of the joint working group created to implement the memorandum of understanding signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China in November will take place in Islamabad next month to explore areas of cooperation between the two countries in agricultural sector.

Chinese assistance to set up the FMD vaccine plant in Pakistan will be among the agenda of the group’s meeting, the minister said.

Jing informed Sultan that Chinese companies are interested to come to Pakistan and set up special economic zones with agriculture being one of the six major areas identified by Chinese government.

Sultan told the envoy that the two countries could identify and start working on areas of mutual benefit in the field of agriculture prior to the ‘Belt and Road Conference’ scheduled to open on April 27 in China.

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