Chinese trade delegation visits Bowman

By Nathan Hughes - Bowman County Pioneer - 08/21/06

A Chinese trade delegation visited Bowman on August 14, stopping at Paulson Premium Seed, as part of a tour of North Dakota agricultural businesses.

The delegation was hosted by The Northern Pulse Growers Association in conjunction with the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council. The group was comprised of members of the Chamber of Commerce of Longkou Vermicelli, which is made up of buyers and representatives of Vermicelli manufacturers from the Shandong province in China.

The trip marked the first buying trip to the United States for the group, and the first visit to America for many of the individuals. Vermicelli are a type of noodle, sometimes referred to as glass noodles, which are produced from yellow pea starch.

According to Zhang Bao Sheng, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Longkou Vermicelli, the majority of the peas used in the process have been purchased from Canada for the last 15 years. He added that in the last 2-3 years, the United States has started to export to China as well.

This increased production is what attracted the group to this area. Current estimates on the size of the noodle market in China are about 150,000 metric tons, according to figures recently published in an industry publication. Zhang says that much of their market is domestic, though they do export a certain amount of Vermicelli noodles as well.

From October 2005 to March 2006, China imported an estimated 239,011 metric tons of peas, a small fraction of which were imported from the United States. Zhang adds that the market is expanding rapidly, pointing to the fact that so far in 2006, China has imported as many metric tons of peas as were imported in all of 2005.

This dramatic increase in production has prompted Chinese companies to seek additional sources of peas, according to Zhang. In the last 3 years, pea production in the United States has increased 300%, increasing the volume enough to potentially provide a bigger share of Chinese imports.

He also adds that during this visit, which included stops in several North Dakota cities, the group hopes to purchase some products, though the primary goal is to allow them to evaluate the availability of product.

Another important goal of the delegation is to allow them to learn about the industry in the United States, as well as allow North Dakota producers to learn about the Vermicelli industry.

Vermicelli is produced seasonally in China, due to the impact of temperature on the process. It starts by separating the protein from the starch in peas. The starch is then formed into the long clear noodles, which are traditionally dried in the sun.

During their visit to Bowman, the group also stopped for a meal at Hawk's Landing, which served several dishes featuring locally grown products. These included cold zeedi salad, made with North Dakota lentils, yellow peas, green peas, garbanzo beans, courtesy of Paulson Premium Seed; Stuffed roma tomatoes, with North Dakota lentils; North Dakota baby pototatoes and sauteed onions grown locally by Yesterday's Farmers; North Dakota sweet corn and more.

According to a press release from the Northern Pulse Growers, the US pulse industry views the delegations visit as an opportunity to build trade relations with the possibility of expanding market share in the future.

The trip was scheduled to last 3 days, and the group was scheduled to visit Williston after leaving Bowman. For more information on the Northern Pulse Growers Association or the pulse industry, please contact the office at 701-222-0128.

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