2013 MN Soybean SFY China Trade Mission

Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council

2013 See For Yourself Trade Mission to China

March 19 to March 28

SFY China          Beijing           Yanti         Shenzhen        Hong Kong   

Beijing - Arival Day 2 March 20, 2013

We arrived in Beijing in the afternoon after a 14+ hour flight from Chicago that left on Tuesday March 19. Any concerns about being able to navigate or communicate while in the airport were quickly diminished as every informational sign was written in both Chinese and English, we would also soon learn that the road traffic signs are also written in both languages. We were greeted by Ralf from Trump Tours and a interpretor after we cleared customs and soon boarded a coach for the trip into downtown Beijing. Our interpreter who was with us during our entire time in mainland China was Chen Lee or Jack as he wished to be called by his english name.

We stayed 2 nights at the New Onti Hotel at No.26 Jianguomenwai Main Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, which was located within walking distance of a subway station. It is a very modern hotel with comfortable beds, large screen TV which doubles as a PC interconnect screen. There was also a separate shower/bathtub with an awesome electronic toilet.

Every hotel we stayed at featured both American and Chinese breakfast buffet. It was interesting to sample some of both types of breakfast foods. All of the lunches and dinners during the entire trip were at resturants featuring local Chinese crusine. The first Chinese welcome meal was in restaurant in a rebuilt section of Beijing just down the street from Tiananmen Square and to the Forbidden City. We drove by both those sites late in the evening on the way back to the hotel.

Beijing Day 3 - Thursday March 21, 2013

The first morning in China and also day 2 in Beijing we we received a number of briefings. Meanwhile, the trade delegation guests who were traveling with us on the trip, consisting mostly of spouses, visited the Forbiden City, along with our interpreter Chen Lee - "Jack".

The first presentation was given by MN Soybean Executive Director Mr. Tom Slenecka who briefed us on MN Soybean committee assignments, relationships with other promotional organizations including USSEC and USMEF and many of the checkoff funded projects. Minnesota Soybean Growers Association President Mr. Bruce Schmoll, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotions Council Director Mr. Jim Willers also provided background information regarding the goals of the trade mission and the role that participants would have during the scheduled visits.

In addition, we were privileged to receive a briefing from Mr. Scott Sindelar - Agricultural Minister Counselor U.S. Embassy, Beijing. He has ties to Minnesota through his home in Prior Lake MN. He outlined some of the current situations with agriculture in China, as well as several challenges that lie ahead. The media representative on the trip, Kurt Lawton of Corn and Soybean Digest wrote of Mr. Sindelar's presentation, in this article he titled "8 Current Challenges in Chinese Agriculture".  Sindelar concluded by saying that while there are challenges faced in our relationship with China, we have built a foundation of collaboration to solve issues. The soybean industry has been a real leader in this. We've done a good job talking about contributions we make in the development of China....As we look ahead 20-30 years at the global environment for agriculture, if we're not working together to solve issues and challenges in the areas of food security, food safety and sustainability, than we will have real problems for both countries.

Another presentation was made by Mr. Paul Burke, North Asia Regional Director, US Soybean Export Council. USSEC staff and consultants work closely with Asia's livestock producers, feed millers, aquaculture industry, soybean processors and the traders and distributors who supply their needs. The work in Asia over the past 50 years has enhanced the technology and thus the efficiency and productivity of Asia's livestock, aquaculture and feed industries. Mr. Berke briefed the delegation regarding U.S. Soy Trade Background and Market Development Programs. He described Chinese usage of soybean & vegetable oils, soybean crush & meal and soyfood consumption and trends.

A Minnesota Perspective on U.S.-China Agriculture Trade was given by Mr. Kurt Markham, President, C.I.B.. Mr, Markham specializes in Strategic Consulting in Beijing China for Energy & Agriculture for Asia and is a past Director at the MN Department of Agriculture. He spoke regarding Bio-Fuels in China and Chinese food purchasing habits. He shared that the chinese consumer seeks value first along with nutrition and does not focus so much on taste as the U.S. consumer does.

Mr. Yaun Haiying, President of Yaun & Associates provided our delegation a perception of the "Implications of Recent Chinese Government Leadership Changes on U.S. Agriculture Trade. Mr. Haiying has served in Washington D.C. as China's Ag Minister. He shared that he beleives that U.S. Soybean have an image problem in that the Chinese population views all soybean imports as from the United States even though only about 38% of all soybeans imported are from the U.S. He spoke of the role of the Chinese Minister of Agriculture and that only 450 people work for the Minister of Agriculture as compared to the massive size of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He spoke of the peaceful power transition in China beginning in November of 2012 starting with the leadership transition from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping. He shared that the new Chinese State Leadership was well educated and was replacing less educated leadership. He also explained the process that involved regional elections for local government who were appointed after the 18th Party Congress. He spoke of the intended functional changes that include 1) Less government intervention into day to day administratio, and delegate more authority to local governments, 2) Streamlined approval process - cut by 1/3 from 1,700 items, 3)  Service orientated administration 4) Separation of party and government, government and enterprise, and government and society.

Beijing Day 3 afternoon March 21, 2013

After the entire group had lunch at a local Chinese restaurant within walking distance of the hotel, we boarded the coach for a trip through the countryside to "The Great Wall" of China at the Matianyu section, about 70 km from Beijing.

During the bus ride we got our first glimpse of what Chinese Agriculture is like as we saw strips of standing corn stalks among strips of black ground and harvested crops that we couldn't identify with rows of about 20-30 of each crop. The fields reminded us of the strip farming of corn and soybeans done in locations within the U.S.  They were burning off piles of corn stalks in many of the fields. Image 1195. We also saw rows upon rows of greenhouses with removable white plastic covers. As we neared the mountainous area near the great wall we saw lots of terraced ground with mostly small plots.

Once at the Matianyu section of the Great Wall, we walked past a museum, restaurant and a number of souvenier vendors to board a gondola for a trip up the mountainside to the Great Wall. We were able to experience the magnificience of this wonder of the world as we walked within the walls of this stone structure that was constructed in 1404. The wall measures 7-8 meters high, 4-6 meters wide, contains 22 watch towers as it stretches across the peak of the mountainside that has steep embankments on both sides. The Great Wall is often compared to a  great dragon or a silver snake that dances in the mountain. Since we were visiting during the month of March, not only were there very few other tourists to content with and a few patches of snow and ice on the Great Wall but also few others for the souvenior venders to pester as they tried to sell their goods.

Upon arrival back in Beijing we experienced a walk down a bar lined street, stopped to experience local beer at a bar and than met a delegation from North Dakota of Organic Soybean Growers in a Chinese Resaurant.

Beijing Day 4 - Friday March 22, 2013

The morning of Day 3 in Beijing we went to the office of the American Chamber of Commerence in the People's Republic of China near embassy row. There we were given a presentation by Dupont Pioneer Seed Business regarding China's economic growth from 2000-2010. They explained that population grew 5.7%, per capita income increased 156%, per capita meat consumption of beef, pork & chicken grew by 21%, corn cunsumption increased 46% while soybean usage increased 147%.

Pioneer has 8 research stations that provide 500 field trials each year as part of 2 joint ventures for corn production.  The multi-national corporations are restricted to ownership of local assets and can only own upto 49% of a venture, thus they have a Chinese entity as the majority owner in Joint Venture companies.

Pioneer explained that they provide much better quality seed with better germination that the Chinese farmer has been accustomed to using. Historically the farmer plants 2-3 kernals in a hill and thins the plants. Pioneer has developed a program to help the farmer machanize with 2 to 4 row vacume planters that provide single kernal planting by providing a financial assistance program. A challenge that their are 800 million farmers in China and most of them are women and elderly as most of the young men have moved to the cities to pursue better opertunites.

While the Chinese government has invested heavily in the development of Bio-Tech genetics the last ten years abd have developed BT Rice and Corn they have not commercialized them. They appear to be willing to respect the fear of the people regarding BT genetics with the exception of soybeans for use as feed or processed for soy oil. They do place a warning on the soy oil indicating that it is made from genetically modified product.

We then traveled towards our afternoon destination and stopped at Jingdong Hongs Heng Agriculture Sightseeing Ecological Garden for lunch. It was a beautiful indoor arboretum that had several rooms and sections for groups to dine. We experienced a good lunchen in a fantastic setting that also show cased numerous indoor plant species.

The afternoon tour was at the Sino-US Dairy Management Training Center. It was dedicated on June 28, 2006 by the Huaxia Dairy Farm and U.S. Grains Council. The Dairy milks about 3,800 cows using a traditional ration of alfalfa, corn silage, soybean meal, DDGS, beet pulp and premix concentrates. Because the quality of alfalfa is very poor in that region of China, all of the alfalfa hay that is fed is imported from California. Even though it is very expensive, the quality improvement over locally grown hay still offers a better net return. 

Milk is pasturized at a facility about 60 KM away using traditional pasturization methods. They have about 10% of their production packaged for sale under the trade name "Wonder Milk" and also as "Wonder Yugurt". Milk sells for about $3.00 US equivalant per pint or nearly $24.00 US per gallon. Most of the milk available in Chinese stores is Ultra-High Temperature processed and can be stored un-refrigerated for for six to nine months. UHT is preferred due to high costs of refrigeration. Most Chinese do not drink milk because of concern of food safety as in the past milk has been known to be the cause of illness.

Most of the labor force at the dairy is illiterate, making communication of processes and practices a challenge. They used two Claas selfpropelled forage choppers with the rotary cutting heads for chopping of corn silage which was stored in above ground bunkers. Because the typical corn field is small (often only a few hecters in size - the largest field last year was only 30 hecters) it is a challenge to have the trucks follow the choppers around the fields but that is still the most efficient method to transport the silage back to the dairy site.

After the visit was complete at the Sino-US Dairy Management Training Center, we left Beijing International airport for the trip to Yanti International airport in the providance of Shandong on the eastern coast of China near the Yellow Sea. We arrived to our destination after dark.