It's What China Doesn't Do

China Growth Slowing of China's Economy Impacts to Pork China's export based economy is trying to make the transition to a Chinese consumer based economy. Impacting China is the drought and their need to import corn and soybean to feed their 400 million pigs. This NPR episode shares some insight on the Chinese economy and what pork and crop producers in the US should consider [audio].

China's economic boom has altered the global economy but its growth is slowing down. Steve Inskeep talks to Beijing-based economist Patrick Chovanec about China's economic troubles, and how that affects the U.S. economy.

American Observations on Life in China

Life in ChinaCities and Swine Seemingly everywhere one looks China offers two views of today. Outside the Weifang train station, open spaces and modern, even futuristic buildings give the appearance of a prosperous nation ready to lead on the world stage. In truth, many of the offices and apartments we observed were empty. The leaders use construction to employ the people on the assumption that it's cheaper to build today than it will be tomorrow. Inside these buildings are cement walls and roughed in plumbing. Around the corner you see workers on a bamboo raft clearing algae from a retention pond, using technology of decades past.

My recent China sojourn, with JBS-United, was a reminder of the massive changes our North American swine industry has embraced. Internal issues (genetics, disease, feed quality) and external issues (feed costs, blasted hot weather, immigration) have been dealt with and cataloged for future "black swan" events. The overwhelming sense of purpose, unity, vast resources that I viewed as we traveled is offset by flexibility, adaptability, hygiene and husbandry here at home. It's easy to be awed by the China machine but we have the lead and the know-how to maintain it [Editor note: text and photo Ned Arthur, SwineCast].

Agriculture in China

China AgricultureRegions Agriculture is alive and well in China as I see it today and will be changing tremendously over the next century. It sure is nice to see the Chinese Government behind citizens and businesses, building the infrastructure and supporting ( tax wise ) food production for the masses. We (in the USA) might need to have a population explosion to create enough demand for food, so that the politicians quit listening to the naysayers of our industry [Editor note: text Jim Lease, JBS United]!

Animal Health Concerns and Food Variety

China Animal HealthAnimals and Food The primary concern on disease has been pig scours. Foot and Mouth are not much of an issue where I have been so far. Lower slaughter weights are an issue, just like in the US.

Food prices are higher here (China) now, everyone says. However, we can still eat a large meal for under $10 most anywhere except the western fast food places. KFC has a pork burger sandwich over here. Why can’t we get that done in the USA ????? It is not bad but could have improvement for my tastes. The local Pizza Hut has some good pizza similar to the US, with 3 pizzas costing about $45, which is probably about the same as the US or a bit less.

China Weather and Impacts

China WeatherHot / Humid and the Price of Feed The Chinese farmers are aware of the US drought conditions and had lots of questions on how bad it might be and where it drought is occurring in the United States. Corn prices in China (Shandong province, China) are about $10.50 and soybean meal (SBM) prices are around $540/ton. Pigs are at break-even levels for the year or even less for some. Excellent producers are now making less than $15/head. It is possible that corn in China will go to $15/bushel this next year and SBM to $600/ton.

Much of the poultry industry is failing and falling fast. Most of the feed companies are not making money this year at best and losing a load at worst! The weather has been mild in their eyes, but I find that heat and humidity are pretty much like the worst in the Midwest. Corn looks real good and everything is green! They use irrigation and can do that with individual water hoses that are dragged from row to row by the owners. This is best described by a clear plastic tube that looks to be about 2 ½ inches and pretty light plastic (we ran over one on the driveway and it started a nice water shooting display) [Editor note: text Jim Lease, JBS United].

Sighings of China Ag Equipment

China Shifeng GroupEquipment This tractor (larger image) is from the Shifeng Group, the world’s largest farm equipment company in Gaotang, Shandong, China. We took a tour of the manufacturing plants where they build engines, motors, tires and batteries to support the vehicles. The Shifeng Group builds all kinds of trucks, motorized carts, tractors and combines and they have been building electric cars since 2007. They are looking to add new factories to expand on the demand in China. Their market internationally is the developing countries, focusing on South and Central America, India and Africa [Editor note: Combine image, small electric car; text and photos Jim Lease, JBS United].

Feed Mill Tours and Everyday Food

China foodChina Food and Mill Tours We did a duck farm so duck head redux. Also cicada's on the hoof and eggs buried in lime until they turned green. Yum, Yum!

Since I'm traveling with JBS United, we see a lot of feed mills and look at a lot of grain. Mycotoxins are a continuing issue and mills manage the flow by adding 'fixers', blending good corn with infected grain and adjusting that ratio based on what they're feeding. Slow infield and on-ear drying exacerbate the development of the molds and we understand that it's an ongoing problem for the mills. Mixing is done in the states anytime you have bad corn. You can mix more bad in with finisher ration than you can in sow feed or starter.

Interesting conversation at dinner last night about Chinese who leave for U.S., U.K., Australia, etc. for continuing education and the "filtered" media they receive here at home. Many of those students return to China because of family, easier to enter the workplace and return to values and customs the know. And its no problem that they've had access to 'unfiltered' media because they have more of a world-view. However, for most of the people, its better that media be managed because they're more "settled" and happy.

Observation is that they are indeed happy. Very family-centered and generally health conscious. At the mills and large farms workers stay in dorms, receiving free room and board. And the company cook is a great recruitment tool, if he's good.

Greenhouses Rule

Greenhouses RuleGlass All Around This photo (larger image) from Google Earth is significant as to the indications of how China has mobilized and intensified food production. The large areas of gray seen in the top part of the photo is enlarged in the bottom part of the image. Greenhouses are producing every food plant you can imagine. A farmer told us he has two green houses and makes $15,000-$30,000 US a year growing cucumbers. The area of gray in the top part of image covers about 100 square miles. This Google Maps link can be used to zoom in/out to see the size/scope of greenhouses.

Secret Coke Recipe Translated Wrong

Starbucks In China Is Same as Starbucks In USChina Day to Day Day 6: Early morning is a good time to tour Qing dao. Less traffic, cooler, smog has cleared. People enjoy waving and saying 'hello'.

Breakfast coffee with pork producer at Starbucks turned into Chinese Bar-B-Que lunch. Back to the apartment six hours later. Seems like every company is family (nephew is president, two brothers manage, etc.). Ate different foods at much slower pace. We had a three hour lunch because that's how long it takes to go through the various foods.

Ham Hamburger

hamburger hamLocal Production Info Day 4: Conversation with knowledgeable Chinese industry source today indicates big changes for the conventional backyard industry in the next decade. Those operations will likely disappear with the older generation as family members are unwilling to continue due to better income potential elsewhere. Production likely to be made up in the 100-500 sow operations. Limitations are available land with direct competition from other land users (industrial, cropping, etc.) that have greater potential for tax revenues or other benefits for local leaders.

KFC 'hamburger' is today's feature focus. Technically it is ham, and it's on a burger bun.  

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