A China-New Zealand joint venture will see exchanges of information and expertise, writes James Penn.

New Zealand's agricultural industries are set for a boost under the Agricultural Growth Programme (AGP) formed last month between New Zealand and China.

The AGP will provide a basis for co-operation that will "improve the economic wellbeing of our respective agricultural sectors, enhance participation in the global value chain, and address common challenges," says Chris Carson, Director of International Policy at the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The programme is expected to further enhance ties between the New Zealand and Chinese agricultural sectors, with a view to improving the exchange of agricultural policy initiatives, livestock technologies, animal health and disease control, and the training of dairy farmers.

A particular focus will be placed on the expertise New Zealand firms and individuals can offer in these areas, leading to improved productivity for both nations' agricultural sectors, and an expansion of export opportunities for Kiwi producers.

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The arrangement to establish the AGP, a public-private partnership, was signed by New Zealand's Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, and China's Minister of Agriculture, Han Changfu, during the Prime Minister's latest visit to China.

A joint advisory panel between the respective ministries will work to identify new opportunities for agricultural co-operation, and monitor initiatives as they are implemented.

These initiatives will take the form of joint research projects, expert exchanges, and professional development programmes.

For example, Crown Research Institutes and education providers can be expected to explore new opportunities in joint research and exchange of expertise through research fellowships and targeted scholarships.

"Agriculture is a modern, fast-moving industry," says Carson. "New Zealand is keen to share expertise and find opportunities to help Chinese and New Zealand farmers work together to improve productivity and face an increasingly competitive and challenging world."

Such co-operation has been piloted already, in the form of an Equine Veterinary Professional Development Programme.

Supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries, alongside various equine businesses and organisations, the programme involved a seven week mix of vet practice mentoring and university block course learning for three equine practitioners from Inner Mongolian Rider Horse, a major player in the growing Inner Mongolia market for New Zealand-bred horses.

"The industry participation in the programme reflects the value they place on the relationship with China says Dr Trish Pearce, executive advisor to the New Zealand Equine Health Association.

"The programme provided an opportunity to exchange views and understand the needs of China's vet profession." The training covered areas from basic equine anatomy to musculoskeletal ailments affecting performance racehorses and treatment of common equine reproductive conditions.

Dr Fu, head veterinarian at Rider Horse, says that in his 15 years of experiencing professional development opportunities, it was this model that had provided him with the most valuable training experience.

The AGP is also expected to provide the impetus to apply this model in other sectors, with a new China Dairy Vet Training programme already under development.

The programme will pursue four objectives:

• Building a better relationship with China's dairy sector

• Contributing to the Chinese Government's dairy development agenda

• Supporting animal health and welfare in China

• Promoting New Zealand's veterinary education systems while building relationships with with the veterinary profession in China.

The initiative fits within the broader aims of the AGP. Pete Jolly of Massey University, which is leading the vet training programme, says "development of the dairy industry is a priority for the Chinese Government. The programme will encourage commercial partnerships and opportunities for investment."

Such optimism is shared among key players in the AGP.

Carson says "we are very pleased to have the participation of Chinese agri-businesses in these co-operation programmes".

Co-operation and sharing of expertise is the common theme for the individual initiatives and the AGP generally.

One example cited by Carson was "the positive engagement we've received from Shanghai Pengxin on building opportunities through the Dairy Academy for Chinese farmers".