From the tractor
Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
I recently wrapped up a week long trade mission to China, where we met with business executives and potential buyers. This mission included four teams, representing North Carolina forestry products, pork, soybeans and tobacco.
I was pleased to be joined by N.C. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla, whose office works to promote North Carolina business abroad. He joined me for several high-level meetings with China Tobacco and WH Group, the world’s largest pork producer.
China Tobacco buys a tremendous amount of North Carolina tobacco, for which I am very grateful. In fact, China is the single largest export market for tobacco. With North Carolina being the top U.S. producer of flue-cured tobacco, this market is significant to our state’s agricultural economy.
Last year, the government-owned cigarette company opened an office in Cary – its first in the United States. It previously had opened offices in Brazil and Zimbabwe, countries that compete with the U.S. for tobacco sales.
Having an office here in North Carolina allows the buyer and sellers to have more dialogue with one another, hopefully ensuring China Tobacco is getting the product it wants and shoring up the business relationship for the grower.
Tobacco production in North Carolina was strong in 2014, which is both good news and bad. Production numbers were up, but that meant more product came to the market, too. Consequently, a number of growers did not have their contracts renewed for 2015. So developing and expanding new export opportunities for tobacco is important to the long-term health of the industry.
In our meeting with China Tobacco officials, I thanked them for their business and thanked them for opening an office here. I also encouraged them to consider increasing bilateral trade by 10 percent a year, emphasizing that the supply of top-quality tobacco was dependent on there being a reliable demand for it.
Another highlight of our trip was a visit to the China Inspection and Quarantine headquarters in Guangzhou. This inspection site is the largest point of entry for North Carolina agricultural products, and we sought a meeting with directors there to familiarize team members with protocols and procedures for imports.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates similar sites in the U.S. to watch for potential harmful pests hitchhiking into the country via shipping containers and other products.
It was interesting to learn more about their entry requirements for agricultural products.
During the trip, we also held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Shanghai to officially open a joint office that will house trade representatives from both the Commerce Department and our department. A few years ago, we opened an office in Beijing, but decided to move it to Shanghai to share resources with the N.C. Commerce Department. This office will be the main contact for Chinese buyers looking to make business connections in North Carolina, including for agricultural products.
This is my third visit to China, and I have found the people there to be genuinely welcoming and gracious. I would like to say I am starting to pick up the language a little, but I have to admit I am not. I am grateful to have interpreters with us who can speak the language, and it reinforces to me the value in having representatives in China to help our agribusinesses and farms navigate the nuances of international trade.