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China seeks better ties here

DANIEL LOOKER 02/16/2012 @ 3:05pm Business Editor

DES MOINES, Iowa (Agriculture.com)--China’s vice president, Xi Jinping mixed nostalgia with high-level bargaining for closer agricultural ties with the United States at the first U.S. – China Agricultural Symposium here Thursday.

“Twenty seven years ago I led a delegation to the state of Iowa, known as the agricultural capital of the United States, to learn about corn planting technology,” Xi told top  U.S. agricultural officials, including Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. 

Agriculture has long been important to the man who is expected to become president of the world’s most populous nation. His responsibilities as a provincial governor early in his career included agriculture.

Xi said he would like to see more agricultural collaboration between the U.S. and China, which are both major agricultural nations. China is the world’s largest producer of wheat, rice and pork, and rivals Canada as the largest market for U.S. agricultural exports, especially soybeans but also specialty crops such as pecans grown in Arizona and New Mexico.

In 2011, the U.S. exported $23.3 billion in agricultural products to China, Xi said, or more than $10,000 per farm.

China also exports foods to the U.S. and other nations, mainly labor intensive crops including fruits, vegetables, tea and fruit juice.

Xi repeated China’s long-held support for its own food security. China still needs to import soybeans, he said, but for rice, wheat and corn, it has achieved a balance between supply and demand. 

The Chinese government has build reserves of grain and edible oil. Management of these reserves has improved and has stabilized the supply, he said. 

One of Xi’s goals is for more cooperation between China and the U.S. in helping increase global food security.

Xi reminded his audience at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates that Chinese rice researcher Yuan Longpin was one of two recipients of the World Food Prize in 2004. Yuan developed the genetic materials and technologies essential for breeding high-yielding hybrid rice varieties. Yuan’s “super rice” is grown in China’s rice paddies and in more than 20 other nations.

More collaboration between the U.S. and China on improving global food security “will help the world economy achieve a faster recovery,” Xi said. 

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