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The first UN Agriculture and Food Security Theme Group Meeting in 2019 focused on agricultural development and African Swine Fever in China


On March 29th, the first meeting of the United Nations Agriculture and Food Security Theme Group (UNTG-AG) in 2019 took place in the UN large conference room. Nearly 40 delegates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), Tsinghua University, the Delegation of the European Union to China, the Embassy of France in China, UNAIDS, UN-ESCAP, UNDP, UN Women, the World Bank, and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences attended the meeting.

Dr. Vincent Martin, Representative of FAO China, and Mr. Qu Sixi, Country Director of WFP China, welcomed all participants and speakers, and introduced the main topics of the meeting.

Dr. Zhang Hongyu, Deputy Dean of the China Institute for Rural Studies of Tsinghua University and also former Director-General of the Rural Economic System and the Operation Management Department of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), delivered a keynote speech entitled "Unswervingly Promote Agriculture and Rural Development Priorities.”

From an academic perspective, Dr. Zhang shared his insight and understanding on the China Government’s No. 1 Central Document, recently released in February 2019, which focuses on rural land reform and rural cooperative development. He particularly emphasized that the Three Rural Issues (agriculturerural areas and farmers) will continue to be the priority of the government, especially in 2019, with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. He emphasized aspects in his presentation: a good start for rural revitalization; adhering to the priority of agricultural development; focusing on the work of Three Rural Issues; and giving priority to safeguarding key development measures.  

After the presentation, Dr. Zhang interacted with the audience who shared international experiences on rural revitalization, and the policy changes brought by the No. 1 document.

In the following thematic session, Ms. Yu Qi, National Veterinary Epidemiologist from FAO China, presented African Swine Fever’s (ASF) current situation in China, including an overview of ASF in China, possible transmission pathways, and the effective emergency measures taken by the Chinese government to control the spread of ASF.

Mr. Francois Blanc, Agricultural Counsellor from the French Embassy in China, then briefed the audience about the recent Chinese-European-French workshop related to cooperation on ASF control with the private sector in order to safeguard mutual trade. The seminar gathered participants from European countries and China to share information and discuss related measures that should be taken to curb the spread of the disease.

Ms. Gurdrun Gallhoff, the Minister Counsellor for Health and Food Safety from Delegation of the European Union in China, introduced the work done by the European Union to prevent ASF. She also emphasized the importance of knowledge sharing between different countries and organizations. The European Union is willing to share its experience on fighting this disease with China, Vietnam, and other countries. 

Mr Nicolas Dandois, Counsellor for Agricultural Affairs at the Delegation of the European Union in China also recalled the close relationship between China and the EU the need to further collaborate on ASF control to maintain safe trade.

Participants from other institutions and UN agencies also engaged in the discussion on the development of the epidemic of ASF, the effective response measures, the impact on livestock development and trade, and future actions needed to cope with the epidemic. Delegates agreed that the latest information on the epidemic should be communicated and exchanged in a timely manner, and joint actions should be taken to combat the epidemic. ASF is not an issue that can be addressed or controlled by a single country, but a concern for the international community as the epidemic has a direct socio-economic impact on markets, pork prices and ultimately on food security.

Several UN agencies briefed the participants on their upcoming activities, including a seminar on sharing China’s food security policy and experience in April (WFP), a program targeting women in Qinghai and focusing on the introduction of climate resilient agriculture practices  (UN Women) as well as the Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 to be held in Beijing from April 28 to October 7 (FAO China).

Co-chaired by FAO China and WFP China, the UN Theme Group is an important platform for information sharing and cooperation among the government, UN agencies, international organizations, embassies, academia and NGOs. It gathers collective wisdom and efforts to proactively contribute to the development of China’s agriculture sector and the promotion of food security globally.