UK-China Cooperation in Agriculture

Agriculture has always been high on the list of priorities for China – not least due to the  huge challenge of producing 20 percent of the world’s grain for 20 percent of the global population with just 6.6 percent of the world’s water resources and nine percent of the world’s arable land, but also given the hundreds of millions of rural inhabitants whose livelihoods have traditionally depended on agriculture. Over the last 40 years, the face
of China’s agriculture sector has been changing – and continues to do so as more workers migrate to the cities, leaving new challenges in the countryside.

There have been four key advances in the development of the sector in China, particularly
since China’s opening up:
1. A move to a supply and demand-led system: China’s agricultural production has
moved from shortages to surplus production.
2. Farming structure: Through the development of cooperative farming, Chinese farmers
have collaborated and developed their own innovations.
3. Restructuring of agricultural production: This has increased the competitiveness of
agricultural products.
4. Changing countryside: Farmers have seen their livelihoods improve.

These changes are often attributed to good government policies; a strong focus on the
development of science and technology in agriculture; seeking to establish a more integrated system where agriculture can serve the whole society; and international collaboration.

The fundamental focus for China’s agricultural development will not change in the next 40
years, nor beyond. The focus on using science and innovation to develop the industry will
continue as a priority and the recognition of the importance of international collaboration
presents opportunities for more UK-China projects across a range of specialisms. The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2016) highlights this as well as other themes, including:

  • Economic restructuring:

a. A shift away from old concepts which centred on quantity and scale to focus on
moving towards efficiency and economic effectiveness;
b. A move to modern agricultural development;
c. Promotion of and encouragement of farmers to pursue profitable, yet sustainable farming practices that protect the environment.


  • Upgrading of Chinese agriculture: There will be a broader focus which will see emphasis not only on crop production, but also on animal husbandry. Chinese consumption of meat is 10 times lower than that in the EU. Promotion of animal husbandry (and aquaculture) in China will bring opportunities for international cooperation. In addition, there will be opportunities in secondary and tertiary industries.
  • Driving industrialisation: Promotion of agricultural development and modernisation is key.

The UK has many companies and organisations that have world-leading products and
technologies that present opportunities for collaboration with China: higher yielding,
higher pest- and disease-resistant crops; more efficient livestock production; and
agricultural mechanisation to name a few.

Many companies are already active in China, but our partners there are keen to see more
collaboration. Of course, there are challenges. Many areas of collaboration (especially for
crops and livestock/meat products,) require export certification which can only be achieved through negotiations between DEFRA and its Chinese counterparts the Ministry of Agriculture and the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). Negotiations are ongoing in a wide number of areas to facilitate more trade.

With the importance of global food security (an area where the UK and China already
have a collaboration agreement) and the growing emphasis on food safety in China, the
opportunities can only continue to increase.

This article is taken from a special CBBC publication commemorating the 40th anniversary of UK-China diplomatic relations. View the full publication here.

Visit to find out how CBBC can help companies from all sectors do business with China.

Sectors: Agriculture, Horticulture & Fisheries
Countries: China and Far East
Export Action Plan