Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming at the UK Fresh Produce Consortium Annual Dinner
4 February 2012, Savoy Hotel, London
（From Chinese Embassy in UK）
President Jim Rogers,
Chinese and British business leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to attend your dinner this evening.
I gather that this is the 66th annual dinner hosted by the Fresh Produce Consortium. I am very pleased that this year you have honoured China by inviting my country as your 'Guest Nation'.
The history of China's agricultural trade with Britain goes a long way back.
Records show that in 1637, a merchant in Britain bought over 100 pounds of Chinese produce from Guangzhou in southern China. That was an indication of how our trade in farm produce was going to evolve.
At first the trade was restricted to meeting the needs of your Royal Family and the very wealthy. But archives show that by 1658, Chinese produce was beginning to reach ordinary people in Britain. In that year there appeared an advertisement that boldly proclaims:
'That Excellent, and by all Physicians approved, China Drink, is sold at the Sultan's Head, a coffee house by the Royal Exchange, in London.'
Perhaps you know this Chinese produce referred to here?
Yes, of course it's tea!
As you know the consumption of tea in Britain became a big part of the British way of life. The evidence is in how British people adopted the Chinese name for tea which is 'cha'.
So when you next ask for a cup of 'cha', you know you have just started to learn Mandarin!
Of course, tea is a dry product, not fresh produce. In past centuries the transport conditions were no good for fresh produce to be shipped and traded across long distances.
Time flashes by and we live in a quite different world today. The new transport and storage technologies have utterly transformed what is available for our dinner tables. Technology has demolished the barriers that stand in the way of Sino-UK trade in fresh produce.
The result is a rapidly growing variety of fresh produce being traded. Also, the trading volume keeps going up. British Customs Records show that in 2010 the UK imported more than 450 million US dollars worth of Chinese fruits and vegetables.
China has vast and highly productive agricultural resources. Our agriculture needs to be highly efficient. China today, and through its long history has to feed almost one fifth of the people of the world. But China has to do this from under ten percent of the world's arable land.
But as I said technology in recent years has enabled China to expand trade in agricultural produce.
China is now the world's number five exporter and the fourth largest importer of agricultural products. According to Chinese statistics, our agricultural trade in 2011 was worth 154.03 billion US dollars. And China's fruits and vegetables export amounted to 11.21 billion US dollars.
As consumers we all value having high quality food. That relies on effective regulation. In recent years, the Chinese Government has worked hard to improve industry regulation and quality management in the agricultural sector.
China has been committed to learn best practices from around the world. So, the EU-style safety and quality control system has been brought to China.
Fresh produce has been a fast growing component in China's trade with Britain in recent years. But, it only takes up a small percentage in China's total agricultural trade. Now, Britain imports 120 million dollars' worth of fresh produce from China. That is under one percent of Britain's purchase of farm produce across the world.
These figures suggest there is a great potential to be tapped. I believe China and UK can find enormous commercial opportunities in the agricultural sector. Agricultural trade can become a new boost in China-UK economic ties. It brings mutual gains to our business communities and gives British and Chinese consumers greater choices.
Tonight, I'm very pleased to see some Chinese agricultural suppliers at the dinner. I look forward to their new partnership with the member companies of the Fresh Produce Consortium. This new partnership can bring more fresh produce from China to supermarkets and kitchen tables across Britain.
Finally I want to express my hearty thanks to the Fresh Produce Consortium, and to the China Chamber of Commerce of Imports and Exports of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products. I know they all have worked very hard to make this event a success.
Also I want to thank the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company and Tsingtao Brewery Company for their strong support.
In closing, I wish you all happiness and prosperity in the Year of the Dragon.