YINCHUAN, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- September marks the harvest season not only for farmers but also for Youssef Elkorma, who recently concluded a three-day business trip to Pingluo County in Shizuishan City, located in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
"It's very fruitful. I saw many varieties and a great number of vegetables that are suitable for the Egyptian and African market and also for the Arab market, so I am here to bring the top-quality seeds back to my country," said Elkorma, who runs a family business specializing in seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers in Cairo, the capital of Egypt.
This was Elkorma's first visit to Ningxia, and he spent most of his time exploring the local agricultural demonstration base featuring a variety of vegetables. This facility belongs to the Ningxia Taijin Seeds Co., Ltd., a scientific and technological enterprise specializing in vegetable breeding, production, promotion, import, and export.
According to Pei Zhuoqiang, board chairman of the demonstration base, this facility has successfully bred over 70 new seed varieties and exported seeds to 46 countries and regions, including Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
"About 50 percent of our clients are from the Middle East. Climate plays a crucial role in crop performance, and Ningxia's climate closely aligns with that of Middle Eastern countries, providing us with a natural advantage in developing this market," he explained.
"Though many vegetables are quite common in the world, dietary habits differ in different countries, and so we focus on breeding seeds that are suited to foreign markets in terms of colors, flavors, and shapes," Pei said, adding that farming takes time and constant efforts, which is why the company has increased its research and development investment ratio to 20 percent in recent years.
Strolling through the extensive pepper fields boasting 500 varieties, Elkorma was pleasantly amazed by the abundance of high-quality pepper hybrids. He couldn't resist picking peppers to appreciate their aroma and feel their weight in his hands while occasionally pausing to take photos and film the vast agricultural area.
"We like sweets in Egypt, but we also eat peppers, and we have some peppers for industrial use. All of these I saw here I'm expecting to take back to Egypt," Elkorma said with a sense of excitement.
Pei was visibly delighted to hear Elkorma's positive feedback. Over the past month alone, Pei has welcomed nearly 30 groups of international guests hailing from countries and regions along the Belt and Road, including Uzbekistan, Lebanon, Türkiye and Pakistan. With an increasing number of countries and regions joining China's Belt and Road Initiative, Pei hopes to tap into these international markets.
"We've received both old friends and new ones, with some placing orders during their very first visit. Over the years, our seeds have steadily flourished and borne fruit along the Belt and Road," Pei said. As an example, he mentioned that the company exports carrot, eggplant, and melon seeds to Türkiye, while also supplying cucumbers and tomatoes to Jordan and zucchinis to Singapore.
Mustafa Furkan Ozgener, 32, who hails from Türkiye, has worked for the agricultural base for seven years. His current role primarily focuses on managing the Middle Eastern market. He consistently goes the extra mile by not only showcasing the vegetable fields to his clients but also providing them with insights into the research center and laboratories. "That's our core competitiveness, and clients will be more confident in cooperating with us," said Ozgener.
The sixth China-Arab States Expo, starting on Sept. 21 in Ningxia's capital Yinchuan, is expected to draw representatives from 14 governments, 13 international and regional organizations, as well as foreign institutions in China, and over 60 foreign business associations and enterprises.
"The expo provides a wonderful platform for international trade, and we have displayed our seeds during the event many times. I really hope it will help us find more clients in the Middle East," said Pei. "We also have four demonstration bases located in Jordan, Türkiye, Egypt, and Lebanon."
After the expo, Ozgener plans to return to Türkiye and focus on developing the international market for the seeds. "China has abundant germplasm resources, while the Middle East has a huge market. I can play a better role in building a bridge," Ozgener said.
Due to his tight schedule, Elkorma had to leave before the start of the expo. Speaking to Xinhua, he said he hopes to attend the next edition of the expo. "The Egyptians built pyramids, and the Chinese built the Great Wall. Our countries are builders, so I'm looking forward to building a 'business road' together."