Thursday in China: A long and interesting day

by | Aug 6, 2009

Commissioner Troxler stands with Chinese tobacco farmer Hong Pinghua.

Commissioner Troxler stands with Chinese tobacco farmer Hong Pinghua.

Wednesday, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler signed a memorandum of understanding with the Yunnan Department of Agriculture. On Thursday, we began putting the agreement into action. We visited three farming operations in the Shilin area of the province.

Local agricultural leaders, including Kunming City Agriculture Director Guo Huan Bo, led our tour into the province’s agricultural region, which is somewhat mountainous. We saw many instances of corn or other crops growing on steep slopes.

Our first stop was Wen’s Farm, which raises pigs and chickens. From the description given by the farm managers, it is similar to a farmers’ cooperative, with farmers from the area contributing to it. Wen’s was founded in the 1980s when eight families each invested 1,000 RMB or yuan (China’s currency). Under the current exchange rate, that’s about equal to $150 U.S. dollars. For a Chinese farming family, that was a significant amount.

Next up was a tobacco farm that provides leaf for Kunming Cigarette Factory. Commissioner Troxler felt right at home talking with the farm’s production leader, Hong Pinghua. About 400 people work on the 1,300-acre farm, producing a local brand of leaf known as Yunnan 87.

Our final stop in Shilin was an ecological farm operated by Yunnan Wanjiahuan Food Group. The farm has a goat breeding facility that focuses on the sustainability of the province’s native goat breed. The farm has about 1,700 goats. The farm also produces organic fruits, such as blueberries, pears, peaches, apples and nectarines.

Mr. Gao of the YDA said the farm provides a general picture of Yunnan’s agricultural development. Planned investment in the farm is about 680 yuan, or about $100 million U.S. dollars. Commissioner Troxler said the farm “is a great asset to China.”

The farm’s ownership wants to organize a trip to the United States this fall. Commissioner Troxler invited the delegation to come to North Carolina and see examples of agricultural research. He even invited the group to the N.C. State Fair.

Troxler was impressed by the farm and the willingness of the provincial leaders to engage in dialogue. “There are many areas of potential cooperation,” he said.

The staff of the farm prepared us a lunch featuring some of the farm’s products. We also were treated to singing from a group of young members of one of the region’s minority populations. They were dressed in coloroful native costumes.

After lunch, we returned to Kunming to tour the cigarette facility. We saw German-made machines rolling and packaging more than 13,000 cigarettes per minute. That’s more than 600 packs in a single minute. The rapid speed of processing is understandable when you consider there are 330 million smokers in China.

Members of our delegation’s tobacco team stayed behind in Kunming to meet with customers, while the rest of us headed to the airport for a flight to Guangzhou. As it turned out, the flight was delayed several hours, and we arrived in Guangzhou at 1 a.m. local time.

Our soybeam team has organized a conference for customers there Friday. Commissioner Troxler will speak at the conference in the morning before heading by train to Hong Kong to host a lunch with N.C. ag customers in that city.

Saturday, we head home.