Keqiang made the announcement at the closing press conference of the China-CEEC forum in Sofia, also known as 16+1. The deal, according to Bulgarian officials, will see China buying up to 10,000 tonnes of dry tobacco or 10 million tonnes of dried tobacco leaves, Novinite reported.
Novinite said the deal, if fully implemented, would see China buying out nearly the entire oriental crop. Bulgaria produces around 15,000 - 18,000 tonnes of dry oriental tobacco annually, and around 25,000 tonnes of other tobacco varieties, the news agency said.
"We will process these leaves and I want to reassure the Chinese manufacturers that this quantity will not affect negatively China, but will respond to the need of our good friend,” Keqiang was quoted as saying.
The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov favoured also including Chinese tobacco varieties in order to sustain livelihoods in tobacco-growing regions in Bulgaria. "Over the years, we tried to replace the tobacco with all sorts of things – carnations for example, but now the people can continue to grow tobacco. I thank Li Keqiang for this really is a political deal," Borisov was quoted as saying.
16+1 is an initiative by the People’s Republic aimed at strengthening economic cooperation between it, 5 Balkan states and 11 EU member states.