There’s certainly plenty of turmoil these days in U.S.-China trade relations. But within all of that, there’s one certainty: China will need to continue to import a lot of food for a long time. And that fact will continue to have a big impact on agriculture in the United States, as well as in other major food exporting countries.
Participants of the recent Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) market study tour saw first-hand some of the reasons behind consumer-demand changes as they visited markets and food manufacturers and talked to Chinese officials, as well as Americans based there.
First, China is the world’s most populous country with a population of nearly 1.4 billion. Second, China is becoming richer, and consumers want to buy better food.
Finally, the Iowans heard again and again that Chinese consumers, frightened by recent food safely scandals, are demanding safer food. They tend to view imports as safer, especially those from the United States.
That desire for safety was clear to the IFBF tour participants during a tour of a Sam’s Club outlet in Chengdu, a city of 14 million in southwest China. The store carries many food items that you wouldn’t see in the United States. (Spicy duck tongue, anyone?)
But the clean, well-lit store had a very American look and was a far cry from the dimly lit markets where food was traditionally sold in China.
Those changes in Chinese food-buying habits appear to provide a clear advantage for U.S. food products in China, no matter how tense trade relations are between the two countries.