Rocky Barker in China: Hay deal creates 5 new jobs; delegation arrives in Guangzhou

rbarker@idahostatesman.comJune 8, 2010 

Larsen comes home with hay deal and jobs for Idaho

SHANGHAI — Richard Larsen signed a new deal to sell hay to Shanghai Bright Dairy Corp, creating five jobs in the Dubois hay terminal he owns with his brother Blaine — and restoring a relationship that had fractured when hay prices rose two years ago.

Larsen said the deal will also help hay farmers across the state.

"The more hay we sell to them the more hay we can buy from our neighbors," said Larsen, whose hay business employs 30 people. Overall, the businesses in eastern Idaho owned by Larsen, his brother, and son Chad employ 200 people.

Shanghai Bright agreed to buy hay from Larsen in 2007 after Otter met with the dairy company. It hinged on the quality remaining high and the price staying in range. But in 2008 the price of hay rose too high for Shanghai and it quit buying.

"Butch came back and helped us mend a fence," Larsen said. "That's a big deal."

Not everyone will like the deal. The price of hay is certain to go up in Idaho, adding cost to the state's own dairy farms.

Larsen, a self-described conservative Republican, thinks the money spent on trade missions like this one to China is taxpayer dollars well spent.

"To me that's what the government is there for," Larsen said, "to help us create job and be friends to business."

Wheat farmer meets his real customer on banks of Huangpu

SHANGHAI — Not all meetings are designed to lead to immediate deals. Wheat Commissioner Jerry Brown toured the Great Wall Milling Co. mill on the banks of the Huangpu River, which runs through Shanghai.

Unlike the rest of us, he saw the China outside of the modern urban Shanghai with the patchwork of roads and infrastructure familiar to travelers throughout much of the Third World. It was a reminder to him that despite the incredible growth and development in urban China, much of rural China does not share in the opulence.

Still, the mill itself was as modern as any in the world, said Brown, a wheat farmer from Soda Springs. He was given a tour by the milling company CEO, Mr. Wang.

"I used to think my customer was the elevator," Brown said. "Really my customer was Mr. Wang."

The mill uses six different kinds and quality of wheat based on color and protein content. It blends them together to meet its own customers' specific needs, like mixing paint.

Otter arrives in Guangzhou

GUANGZHOU — The Idaho trade mission landed Tuesday in Guangzhou, a southern China city on the Pearl River just north of Hong Kong. The region is going through some of the same development as Shanghai but it still has many older buildings and neighborhoods that have been around for decades.

It's hotter, more polluted, but has a charm that is matched by its excellent food. Restaurants, like the Upday Chao, where Idaho Department of Commerce officials dined for a business meeting with Chinese investors, have aquariums with live fish. A saucy fish dish came with a host of fusion tastes from dim sum to sushi and full plates of unique Cantonese specialties.

There were many toasts, exchanges of gifts, presentations, singing, even magic tricks. Business in China is not all work.

WHAT HAPPENS WEDNESDAY

Otter meets with Guangdong Province Gov. Huang HuaHua and attends a "Great American BBQ" hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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