There was reference to the farmers’ movement in Indian and of the unrest among fishermen in Balochistan at the meeting between Pakistan’s ambassador to China and President of the Chinese agribusiness giant, COFCO.
Pakistan ambassador to China, Moin ul Haque on Sunday met with Richeng Luan, President of China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) to firm up plans for the Chinese agricultural commodities business house to set foot in Pakistan.
The Pakistan foreign ministry said on Sunday that the two sides also exchanged views on possible collaboration between COFCO and Pakistan during the meeting. The foreign ministry added that this would benefit both the countries.
Founded in 1949, COFCO is China’s leading agriculture, food and commodity enterprise. The company has been on the Fortune list of the world’s top 500 businesses for 27 years and is China’s principal importer of grain and other agricultural and dairy products.
Ambassador Haque briefed the COFCO team of the second phase of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and Pakistan, giving duty free access to large number of Chinese agro products.
Pakistan is a big producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, cotton and potatoes, with huge surpluses, the ambassador said, adding that the country wants to export these to China. Besides, Pakistan is also looking at COFCO’s experience to market its premium basmati rice.
COFCO is already in the process of investing in agri-product processing. It has a contract with Pakistan’s Matco Foods to produce and procure corn from a wet milling production facility in Pakistan. Matco is in a position to process and provide up to 200 metric tonne of milled corn to COFCO daily.
But COFCO also has concerns of the Pakistan government having to buckle under pressure from farmers’ organisations. The meeting discussed the farmers’ movement in Pakistan throughout that began in 2021. Generally, the corporate house is conscious that there is a growing sentiment against the entry of big agro business in SouthAsia.
Organised under the umbrella of Pakistan Kisan Ittehad, farmers have also been demanding an MSP for other farm produce, especially paddy, corn and cotton. The slogan for the farmers’ agitation early 2022 was “Bezuban Janwar aur Bebas Kisan March” (march for mute animals and helpless farmers).
A well-placed source mentioned that there was reference to the farmers’ movement in India and of the unrest among farmers and fishermen in Pakistan.
Farmers across Pakistan too are restive. In the past year, the country witnessed how sporadic protests for fertilisers got organised by the day, helping farmers find a voice. The farmers were protesting for affordable fertiliser and electricity.
The Chinese are also aware of the demand by Pakistan’s farmers for a minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. Pakistan has a system of MSP for wheat alone, but that too is only on paper since the government has not procured wheat from farmers for over a decade.
The MSP for wheat was initially agreed to assuage influential farmers from the Punjab province. But, rather than procure wheat from the farmers, the government has been spending huge amounts of money to import the commodity.
Similarly, a movement in Pakistan’s western province of Balochistan has impacted Chinese fishing trawlers in the Arabian Sea. All information from the movement indicated that the movement in Pakistan was inspired by the farmers’ movement in India against the farm laws.
Towards the end of 2021, a top Chinese diplomat had, in an interview with a Pakistani media, said that China had elaborate and long-term plans to enter the Pakistani fishing industry.
The diplomat, Consul General Li Bijian had said that “Chinese investors are very much interested in investing in the fishing sector in Pakistan,” which has rich fishery resources.
That statement stirred huge sentiments in Balochistan and also in the neighbouring province of Sindh. Fisher organisations say that over 700,000 fishing families are struggling to survive in the face of fast-depleting fish stocks.