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China, Russia Intensify Efforts to Build Grain Base in Border Area

China's northeast Heilongjiang Province and the neighboring Far East area of Russia are strengthening efforts to build a grain and vegetable base in the border area.

Heilongjiang, known as "China's barn" for its large yields of grain, enjoys advantages in agricultural production and labor; the Russian Far East, with its vast land, can make better use of the land resources in cooperation with China, experts and officials attending the ongoing 19th Harbin Fair for Trade and Economic Cooperation said in the provincial capital.

The area bordering Heilongjiang and the Far East boasts rich soil that suffers little pollution. The environment is favorable to develop eco-agriculture, said Sui Fengfu, Heilongjiang land reclamation bureau director.

"It has been made a priority to strengthen cooperation with our Russian counterparts in that area, including scientific research, techniques exchanges, food processing, as well as agricultural production," Sui said.

Over the past 60 years, Heilongjiang has been upgrading farm machinery and techniques. The farmers are experienced in planting, breeding and the further processing of food.

Sergey Chiplakov, Russian envoy and business representative in China, told Xinhua his country hoped to develop agriculture in aid of China's funds and techniques. The two parts could carry out various cooperation, either by contracting or by setting up joint ventures.

Many oblasts, a Russian administrative subdivision or region, had shown great interest in agricultural projects in China, he added.

In Jewish Autonomous Oblast, neighboring Heilongjiang, the three districts of Birobidzhan, Oktyabrskiy and Leninskiy were given preferential policies to attract Chinese investors.

Wang Xinyou, a native of Heilongjiang, registered a company -- Baoqing Farm -- in the Jewish Oblast in 2005. Under the contract he signed with the Leninskiy District, he could grow soya beans and vegetables on 5,000hectares of land for up to 20 years.

At the Harbin Fair for Trade and Economic Cooperation, Wang rented a booth to promote its farm produce as well as to seek business opportunities. The Jewish Oblast was happy Chinese businessmen had come to develop the local land, Wang said.

"In our farm, both Chinese and Russian farmers have been farming with machines and equipment brought from China in the past years."

Wang said the products were mostly sold in Leninskiy and some were sold into China.

The agricultural cooperation between Heilongjiang and Russia had made remarkable progress," said director Sui. "Since 2001, we have been organizing farm managers and enterprise representatives to inspect in the border area for agricultural cooperation with Russia."

According to the figure of the province's land reclamation bureau, in 2007, 28 of the 38 farms in the border area had signed contracts with Russia. This involved 80,400 hectares and an investment of 150 million yuan (US$21.4 million). In addition, 15 Chinese-funded companies were registered in Russia. In that period, 80,000 tons of grain was produced, 1,323 sets of farm machines were transported from China and 4,572 Chinese farmers worked there.

Russia needs further cooperation with other countries in developing its agriculture in the Far East and Siberia, due to its insufficient labor force and poor agricultural infrastructure," Jiang Zhenjun, professor with Russian Institute at Heilongjiang University. "The two countries' complementary strengths will provide a sustainable basis for cooperation."

Chiplakov also saw a bright future. He said China and Russia could jointly develop green food in the Far East area and this may help deal with the world food shortage.

(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2008)

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