This week, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and representatives from several N.C. commodity groups are visiting Beijing on a trade mission. Andrea Ashby, NCDA&CS assistant director of public affairs, is also in China and will be posting periodic updates of the visit.
Media coverage of agricultural news in the United States is not as prevalent as it used to be even 10 years ago when daily farm reports could still be found on television.
Often if agriculture is in the news, it is likely not good news. For example, in North Carolina we tend to see increased ag coverage in cases of droughts and with late spring frosts that might be threatening to early crops.
That’s why it was surprising to see the front cover of this morning’s China Daily newspaper, which carried a big headline reassuring the Chinese people that “Grain prices ‘will be stable’.”
According to the newspaper, concern has been spurred by severe drought conditions in two of China’s major grain-producing areas– the central and eastern regions. In addition the article talked about efforts to stem rising food prices, which are of just as much concern to the Chinese as they are to U.S. shoppers.
The article is interesting and includes reassurances from leading Chinese agriculturists and meteorologists that there will be limited impact on the wheat crop from the dry conditions.
North Carolina growers still remain optimistic about future sales potential because of competitive freight costs and containerized shipments — two benefits that have made Australia a top supplier of wheat to China.
Members of the trade delegation’s wheat team will be in Beijing through Thursday, before traveling to Hong Kong and Vietnam for more meetings.
While agricultural news remains in the headlines today in China, I was also interested to read that one of Beijing’s popular tourist attractions — the Forbidden City — has ties to agriculture. The Forbidden City, which is the world’s largest palace complex, was once home to a long line of emperors. The site includes 800 buildings and dates to 1420.
According to Fodor’s Beijing travel guide book, the Meridian Gate was the main southern entrance to the Forbidden City and was where the emperor would announce the annual planting schedules that were based on a lunar calendar. In addition, the Hall of Middle Harmony housed the royal plow, which was used annually with the turning of a furrow by the emperor to signal the start of spring planting — which I could imagine was sort of a ceremonial groundbreaking.
In the week ahead, I plan to talk with Paul Chang, our chief representative in China, who will be heading up North Carolina’s first agricultural trade office, to learn more about the business environment and plans for the office.