Trade Tiff Threatens to Transform China’s Foreign Food Sourcing

Trade Tiff Threatens to Transform China’s Foreign Food Sourcing

Benedict Armour

Date: Mon, 05/21/2018 - 13:25 / source:Yicai

(Yicai Global) May 21 -- Spiraling trade tensions between the US and China have seen the former’s agricultural products taking flak.

Nowhere was this more evident than at the recent Food & Beverage Innovation Forum in Shanghai, the most influential gathering of its kind in Asia.  

Thierry Gripon, a Frenchman now resident in Canada’s eastern majority French-speaking province of Quebec, had come to the forum to sell soy on behalf of Sg Ceresco Inc., a Montreal-based seller of non-genetically-modified grains and soybeans, of which he is president.

Gripon is becoming a grudging admirer of US President Donald Trump, whom he credits for nobbling his firm’s biggest competitor -- the US.

The Canadian soybeans Gripon displayed graded in side-by-side glass containers are welcomed with open arms in China -- the world’s largest consumer of the legume -- whereas US suppliers are afraid to even ship theirs under the threat of the looming tit-for-tat sanctions Beijing is warning it will slap on US agricultural imports in retaliation for the US administration’s threatened punitive tariffs on Chinese products.

“Each party -- the USA and China -- is playing a game. Who is the strongest? And probably at the end then, there’ll be an agreement. But up to now, today, it is affecting the business of the Americans, definitely,” he said.

“For the food-grade soybeans business, yes, it is affecting them because Chinese buyers are reluctant to make a commitment with Americans. With Canadians they have no problem,” Gripon said with a complacency that verged on gloating.

China’s soybean imports from the United States dropped 27 percent annually in March, while imports from Brazil rose by one-third, and from new partner Russia doubled, reflecting the US-China trade tiff, according to customs data.

The country's imports of rapeseed dregs -- used as organic fertilizer -- from Canada skyrocketed in March, more than doubling to 107,700 tons, Yicai Global reported earlier today.

The trade dispute thus seems set to alter the terrain of the global agricultural sector and realign the flow of produce to China from the US to its northern and southern neighbors.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is set to visit Beijing to talk trade turkey “in a few days,” Trump announced, as news outlet CNBC reported today. Perhaps this reflects a belated realization that losing the world’s biggest food-consuming nation as a customer would deal a body blow from which America’s agriculture might never recover.

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Keywords: China-US Trade Dispute