Dave DeWitte, CR Gazette –
Leaders of an Iowa trade delegation were upbeat after meeting Monday with China’s vice president and agriculture minister, despite cooling growth in China’s pork production and soybean demand.
The meteoric growth in China’s economy has been slowing, but delegation members said in a late-night conference call Monday from China that the country’s pork production and soybean demand are so great that growth is great even at today’s slower rates.
“Things are slowing down, but they’re slowing down to levels people here would certainly like to have,” said Kirk Leeds, chief executive officer of the Iowa Soybean Association.
The soybean crushing industry in China has not been profitable for the last couple of years, Leeds said, in part due to a price freeze on the domestic soybean oil.
The meetings with Vice President Xi Jinping and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu had not been listed on the official trip itinerary for Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and an agricultural delegation.
The Iowans said the high-level access they were granted made a big impression on other Chinese they met with Monday during the early part of their weeklong visit, and partly reflected the strong ties cultivated between Iowa agriculture and China over more than 30 years.
The Chinese vice president’s visit to Iowa in February made headlines across Iowa, and delegation leaders said photos of him climbing aboard a John Deere tractor at the Kimberly family farm in Maxwell, Iowa, appeared in newspapers across China as well.
Discussions included references to the agriculture symposium at the World Food Prize conference in Des Moines, Reynolds said, and the need to work together across a broad range of policy issues such as food security.
The delegation included the top officers of the Iowa Soybean Association, and several agricultural cooperatives.
China imported 24.36 million metric tons of United States soybeans in the most recent marketing year, 59 percent of all United State exports. All imported soybeans are crushed into soybean meal and oil. The meal is used mainly for poultry and hog feed, while the oil is used for cooking.
Growth projections in Iowa’s hog inventory have slowed to an annual rate of about 5 percent, delegation members said, but with current levels of 650 million, that’s still a staggering 30 million hogs.
The Iowa delegation also met Monday with the chairman of China Tex, a major industry and soybean importer. While no new trade deals were announced, participants said China Tex leaders indicated that company’s soybean purchases would be increasing beyond a major purchase agreement announced during Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States.