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.
North Carolina ports and their ability to serve farmers and agribusiness companies was a topic of concern shared by commodity representatives meeting Tuesday with Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in China.
Representatives from cotton, peanuts, soybeans, tobacco and wheat each talked about the limitations of the state’s two ports to handle large volumes of container and bulk shipments of raw commodities.
Improving infrastructure, increasing accessibility to and from farming regions to the ports and investing in equipment to accommodate the needs of these high-volume shipments were all discussed.
Currently, growers doing business overseas have to transport their commodities to ports in Norfolk, Va., or Charleston or Georgetown, S.C., resulting in lost port fees for the state and higher transportation costs for growers.
Troxler agreed it is an issue that needs to be addressed and one he hears about frequently as farmers look to foreign markets. “This has been an issue for some time and we need to decide as a state if we are going to make the improvements to our ports or if we are going to sit and wait another 50 years saying ‘This is something we need to do,'” he said.
Troxler and the trade delegation also met with agricultural staff at the U.S. Embassy for updates on market conditions and ways the embassy works to facilitate trade.
Embassy officials pointed out several factors that likely bode well for U.S. exports.
Key points are:
- Relations between the U.S. and China have gained positive momentum.
- Growth in Chinese food demand exceeding growth in the domestic supply.
- China farmland is down 10 percent since the late 1990s, and development pressure remains strong.
- The average farm size in China is about 1 acre.
- Chinese food expenditures expected to double by 2025.
- The Chinese government’s policy focus is to achieve food self-sufficiency in the area of grain, possibly leading to a shift in Chinese production from cotton and tobacco.
- Farm productivity in China is much less. For example, corn yield is half of what it is in the U.S. and much of the crop harvesting is done by hand.
Commissioner Troxler and members of the tobacco team will meet Wednesday with officials from China Tobacco Inc. before hosting international buyers at a reception to officially open North Carolina’s agricultural trade office.