The world produces enough food for everyone to eat, but because of distribution challenges and waste, nearly 800 million people are hungry and there will be an additional 2 billion mouths to feed by 2050, according to Dr Patrick Ho, deputy chairman and secretary-general of the China Energy Fund Committee in Hong Kong.
These challenges should motivate China and the US to bring agricultural advances to the developing world where most of the hungry reside, Ho said at the Food for Peace & Thought: China-US Agricultural Cooperation event in New York on Friday. In addition to the China Energy Fund Committee, the conference was sponsored by the Schiller Institute and the Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture.
Noting that President Xi Jinping’s early career was in China’s agricultural sector, Ho said Xi has often discussed how important farming is to the nation, which has to feed 1.3 billion people. “If China wants to be strong, agriculture must be strong,” Ho said of the president’s observations.
Ho said that despite the spending of billions of dollars and a coordinated global effort, deaths and instances of terrorism have increased dramatically since 2001. Ho said agriculture could provide a foundation for economic development in the Middle East, especially in a war-torn country like Syria.
Agricultural projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative could be used as a starting point for a regional reconstruction strategy, he explained.
“This could employ many of the region’s young people,” said Ho and bring them an appreciation for the soil, air and water that are used to produce the food they will eat.
Wei Zhenglin, the agricultural attach of China’s embassy in the US, said agriculture is an important area for improving China-US relations and deepening cooperation.
As part of the US-China 100-Day Action plan announced in May, agriculture has become a breakthrough factor as the Chinese market has been reopened to US beef products for the first time since 2003.
China is the second-largest importer of US agricultural products, accounting for 20 percent of US agricultural product exports. Approximately a quarter of soybeans and two fifths of the cotton in the US are sold to China, according to Wei.
“The agricultural cooperation between two sides should be based on mutual understanding respect, mutual tolerance, pioneering and innovation. For innovation, I mean mechanism innovation and innovation of ideas,” Wei said.
Hong Xiao contributed to this story.