FARGO, North Dakota — An emerging middle class in China has increased that country’s interest in U.S. agriculture products, but it could take years before exports are realized, government and business leaders from North Dakota said Monday.
Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who led a recent overseas trade mission, said China’s increased purchasing power has expanded its import tastes from raw foods to processed products like flour, which is produced at North Dakota’s state-owned mill.
“It seems that every time I return to China we see more doors open. We see more opportunities,” Goehring said during a news conference at North Dakota State University’s downtown campus in Fargo.
The 10-day promotional tour in March included representatives from the pea, lentil, soybean, flax and flour industries, as well as from commercial companies and investment groups. It coincided with what Wrigley billed as the largest American trade mission to China, led by Michael Scuse, an acting undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The North Dakota group met with Chinese officials and buyers at an event hosted by Scuse, who later announced that China plans to buy 8.6 million metric tons of American soybeans this year. Goehring said that while it’s difficult to track where the product will come from, it’s good news for soybean-producing states like North Dakota.