Soybean farmers extend warm welcome to visitors from China

MARSHALL – A group of more than a dozen Chinese soybean traders stopped by in Marshall for lunch on Wednesday on their annual crop tour.

“They have come out here to see the crop and get a feel for what it’s going to be like coming in,” said Chris Hill, director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

The group was hosted by the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council in conjunction with the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC).

Before stopping off in Marshall for pizza and heading off to see the Mall of America, the group toured a farm near Fulda.

“The farm we saw here is pretty good given the current situation,” said Xiaoping Zhang, China country director of the USSEC. “These people represent importers, processors, soybean meal dealers or animal producers.”

According to Zhang, China purchases 50-60 percent of U.S. soybean exports or about one-fourth of each year’s crop.

“That’s one of four rows of soybeans,” Zhang said.

Half of all soybeans imported by China come from the U.S.; the rest from everywhere else.

“The demand is driven by population and demographics,” Zhang said.

More and more people in China are moving out of the countryside to the cities, and the urban population is now about 50 percent. Rising affluence has brought increased demands for meat in their diet, mostly pork and farm-raised fish fed on soy meal.

“The total Chinese market is 70 million metric tons,” Zhang said. “Domestic production can supply only a fraction of that. China needs a reliable, consistent quality supply.”

This year, in spite of late-season dryness, the crop looks good to the trade representatives.

“If the price is OK maybe China will buy more,” said Gary Qin, representing the firm Bonge China.

This can only be good news for area farmers.

“Back in the 1980s our dream was to get China to start buying our soybeans,” said Marshall-area farmer Don Louwagie. “Seeing that dream is exciting.”