China trade mission wraps up

by | Aug 9, 2009

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler’s agricultural trade mission to China wrapped up over the weekend. Friday, he spoke at a soybean conference in Guangzhou, then headed to Hong Kong to host a lunch for buyers of N.C. ag products.

The soybean conference was well attended, and generated new leads for N.C. soybean producers. The conference gave our marketing folks and representatives of the N.C. Soybean Producers Association the opportunity to inform potential buyers of North Carolina’s high-protein soybeans and the ability to load them into containers for shipping out of Wilmington.

The lunch in Hong Kong was attended by representatives of companies that buy tobacco, pork and poultry. It was an opportunity to say thank you to existing customers and build those relationships for the future. (We want to thank William Chu of the N.C. Commerce Department’s Asia office for his assistance in setting up the lunch — and for helping get us through Hong Kong immigration in time to make it to the lunch.)

A poultry seller works in his shop at the Tsai Kok Tsui Market in Hong Kong.

A poultry seller works in his shop at the Tsai Kok Tsui Market in Hong Kong.

After the lunch, we got a look at a local supermarket that sells U.S. agricultural products. Located in a mall, the market reminded me of Fresh Market or Whole Foods. It had a definite upscale atmosphere, which makes sense in Hong Kong, the world’s leader in per capita ownership of Rolls Royces.

After that, we toured a “wet market.” The markets were so-named because the vendors used to wash down their booths at night. Concerns about sanitation and food-borne pathogens have led Hong Kong officials to begin modernizing the wet market.

The Tai Kok Tsui Market takes up several floors of a new municipal building. One floor is devoted to meats (chicken, seafood, poultry, beef … even live frogs). It also has what is known as a “poultry boutique,” where you can pick out a live chicken, then wait while it is slaughtered and prepared for you to take home. Live chickens are kept separate from the processing and sales area.

The second floor features a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and the third floor features a cafe that cooks food bought from the vendors below.

In Hong Kong, space is a premium, and many residents don’t have room for large refrigerators. So they shop for their food almost daily, buying fresh fruits, vegetables and cuts of meat. That makes markets such as this one popular with the locals.

We’d like to thank Anita Katial and Chris Li of the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office in Hong Kong for setting up the market tour. We’d also like to thank Hong Kong city officials for their generosity in spending time with us.

Saturday, we packed up for the long flight home.