Food security top priority in China, say soy farmers meeting in Beijing

By Ann Tracy Mueller

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



BEIJING, March 28, 2014 - In a teleconference from Beijing this week, representatives of two U.S. soybean groups spoke of meeting with industry and government officials there to discuss how farmers from the Americas are banding together to help meet China's growing soybean import needs.

Lets Talk Food

Jared Hagert, a North Dakota soybean farmer and treasurer of the United Soybean Board (USB), and Ray Gaesser, president of the American Soybean Association (ASA), joined soybean farmers from South America on the trip to China as representatives of the International Soy Growers Alliance (ISGA).

The ISGA has members from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and the U.S. It represents 90 percent of the soybean exports in the world.

Hagert said there was a steady message in meetings with the Chinese, saying, “China is concerned about their food security, and does realize that technology, especially biotechnology, will play a big role in the part of their food safety and security.”

He said the attitude is positive, but cautious, toward biotech approvals and wanting to open up communication lines with growers.

Gaesser said that, for China's President Xi Jinping, the number one issue is food security.

Hagert stressed that while China can be self-sufficient in three commodities: rice, wheat and corn, it realizes the country they will need growing imports of soy. The Chinese see the need for increased production. They are concerned about stability of the food supply and need stability in quantity, quality and price. China is concerned about meeting needs in the future. Soy imports can help bridge that gap.

While the people of China are concerned about food security, growers expressed their concern about a timely, science-based approval process that can enable producers to utilize new seed traits. The U.S. growers said response was positive from the people they met with in China.

Gaesser said they are supportive of genetically modified crops and want to make sure they have an approval process, as do consumers in the U.S. and around the world.

The pair spoke of reasons for the growing need for soybeans in China, including an increased need for fat and oils in the diets of people there.

As more and more people move to the city, they want more animal protein, so the Chinese must produce more pork and poultry, Gaesser added.

The ISGA began about seven years ago as a partnership to address issues that affect all soybean growers and industry, to share ideas, to work together to overcome issues in countries and with export partners around the world.

The pair were joined on the call by Jim Sutter, CEO of U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). Sutter addressed the partnership of the groups representing soybean growers, working together to present a powerful front.

Sutter says that as all growers can say together, “we're exporting the same soybeans to the world that we grow in our own countries,” it really makes a powerful message.  

He said the U.S. continues to ship a consistent, good quality product.

Hagert added, “The best statement about quality is that we haven't heard about it this time.”

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