Visit started with a Roundtable with senior representatives from Provincial inward investment, science and technology and agriculture departments plus their leading research institutions and Yunnan State Farm Group.
Provincial Government is very keen to develop links with the UK and open about challenges they face – inviting us to bring forward ideas for solutions.
We also were welcomed as guests of honour to a large innovation and investment event in the city of Yuxi. We had another Roundtable with senior Government officials led by their Department of Agriculture where they expressed a keen interest in how the UK could work with them.
We were taken around the main vegetable growing counties. Farming is dominated by a lot of small scale farms with farmers specialising in certain crops within fixed field system. Minimal evidence of weeds, hedges or birdlife. They believe the produce is grown without fertiliser or pesticides but we did see people spraying crops in some fields.
There are promising commercial opportunities to work with Yunnan companies to support modernisation and expansion. These will be able to secure grants from the provincial government if eligible projects can be agreed. Specific examples we visited included:
Yunnan Tonghai Yangshi Natural Products- Extracting food colouring from a range of naturally grown produce and selling globally. Plant machinery is fairly nterested in modernisation, developing new product ranges.
Jinhai Agriculture Science & Technology Co. Ltd - Rose company distributing flowers across China – interested in improved, non chemical pest management.
Yunnan State Farm Group– wide range of product types from coffee to nuts to potato-based snacks. Very influential across Yunnan as they can help smaller companies with distribution, etc. Interested in increasing profit margins by developments such as organic certification or innovations in the market.
We were told about opportunities to get involved in large funded projects to improve agriculture at the system level.
Qilu Lake Wetland Construction Park– Qilu Lake is in Tonghai county, and is the focus of a 3 year 4 bn RMB project to reduce the currently high nitrogen and organic phosphorous levels. The programme to address this includes waste water treatment, increasing vegetation cover on mountains, building a water channel around lake to block waste inflow
There is a keen interest in match-making Yunnan companies and projects with experts and technologies in the UK that could make a difference.
Companies with IP relating to extractable molecules with significant health benefits could get support to set up JVs but will need to bring considerable commercial capability.
Also, general interest in how to introduce recognised organic farming into the province as they already have a strong focus on healthy and sustainable agriculture. This will require retraining and developing novel approaches to laying out the growing spaces to allow for interplanting, rotation, hedgerows and other methods.
We are hoping the next visit will include some companies and experts with particular technologies that could be matched to Yunnan needs.