Wheat Growers Push for
by Dean Brickey
UMATILLA -- A Chinese shipping consultant who toured the Port of Umatilla on Friday discussed trade opportunities between Chongqing, China and Oregon.
Windy Pang, general manager and founder of Chongqing Kingstar Science and Trade Co., met with representatives of the port, the terminal operator and the Oregon Wheat Growers League. She said manufacturers in her heavily industrialized city are eager to ship their products to the United States.
Tammy Dennee, executive director of the Oregon Wheat Growers League, told Pang that Oregon's wheat farmers are eager to ship their crops in smaller quantities to buyers who want a specific product. They're interested in shipping different types of wheat in individual containers rather than mixing it with other wheat shipped downriver in bulk on 300-ton barges.
"That has been our trade pattern for about 70 years," she said.
Mel Ray, owner of Columbia River Irrigation Systems, the terminal operator, said a container could hold up to 35 tons of grain. That would equal about 1,167 bushels of wheat or nearly 1,460 bushels of barley.
About 85 percent of the region's crop is exported, Dennee said, but farmers have no control over transportation costs and it's becoming more difficult for them to compete. Wheat growers in the Black Sea region of Asia can deliver wheat at $1.65 per bushel, she said.
Pang said Chinese manufacturers, too, are stuck in a rut. They focus on shipments to New York and Los Angeles because those are the biggest port cities.
"Maybe we should have some new ideas for the logistics and the gateway," she said.
Chongqing, an inland city along the Yangtze River, is a center for engine manufacturing, Pang said. All-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and generators are among its most common products. Chemical and textile plants operate there, too.
Dennee said Oregon wheat growers would like to arrange for shipping wheat in containers to China. They'd also like Chinese manufacturers to fill the containers with their products and return them to Oregon ports.
"Cereal grain producers are paying close attention and hope to build trade relationships," she said.
Monica Isbell, an international consultant from Hillsboro, accompanied Pang on her upriver journey from Portland. Isbell asked Dennee if Oregon wheat growers might be interested in purchasing Chinese products and equipment. Dennee said an increasing number of growers are shopping in the international marketplace.
Pang suggested the wheat growers begin discussions with the Chinese government. Dennee responded that world governments "are moving away from trade responsibility" in favor of negotiations among private industries.
"It's not the same old way of doing business any more," she said.
Dennee stressed that shipping wheat in containers would allow individual shipments of wheat that meets certain criteria, based on how it's grown, its protein content, the chemicals applied to it, and so on.
"I would become more of a boutique structure," she said, "rather than a bulk structure."
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