SPOKANE — The U.S. green pea industry hopes to build China’s interest in American products.
The USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council hosted a two-week bus tour of 14 key representatives of China’s industry.
The mission was intended to create long-lasting relationships between pea buyers and U.S. suppliers, said Pete Klaiber, director of marketing for the council.
The trip began Oct. 12 in Minneapolis, Minn.; included Bismarck, N.D., and Great Falls, Mont., Spokane and concludes this week in Seattle.
“China is a significant market for us, it’s our number three market for pea exports,” Klaiber said. “We are not a significant market for China. They buy from other suppliers in larger volumes.”
Klaiber said the United States will likely never have the lowest price in the world marketplace.
“We have a higher quality, but a higher-priced pea,” he said. “Our sellers begin to anticipate what their customer base needs. I want these people to be part of that regular customer base, so year after year, the supplier, the processing plant, the exporter are all anticipating (their needs).”
Lucy Dai, North Asia representative for the council in Shanghai, China, said the team members wanted to see the different varieties of peas for different customers.
The buyers are concerned about the length of delivery time, which always takes too long, Klaiber said. With pea prices trending upward, farmers tend to hold onto their peas, which means smaller supplies for buyers, another concern, Dai said.
Suppliers typically talk with team members about a pea variety’s performance during the year and overall quality, Klaiber said. The team was looking for green peas for fried snacks, requiring water uptake when soaked and good frying. China is also a big market for yellow peas.
Some trade team members will begin negotiations during the tour with the suppliers who provide briefings. Klaiber said they will continue in the next few weeks through emails and phone calls.
“They won’t tell me everything and my members won’t tell me everything,” Klaiber said. “But eventually we’ll figure out what happened.”
Klaiber said the ultimate goal is to increase returns at every level – the exporter, the processor and the grower.
“If we can increase the demand in China for high-quality U.S. peas, we’re increasing the farm gate price for peas over the long term,” he said.