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US Farmer Sees Potential in Chinese Corn Crop

23 June 2011

CHINA — Fresh from a visit to China, Gary Schmalsof, who farms just south of Macomb, Illinois, believes the Asian giant could soon be a big player in the corn market.

"China could become a very big competitor of ours with a little modern technology. They have the soil and the labor to make a run at us," he said.

According to the Journal Star, Schmalsof, who farms 4,500 acres in McDonough County along with his two sons, was part of a group organized by the U.S. Grains Council that met with farmers, grain traders and government officials in surveying how Chinese agriculture is meeting surging domestic demand.

"We toured northeastern China, where 70 per cent of their corn is grown. It's about the same latitude as Minnesota," said Schmalsof, pointing to differences between corn production in the US and China.

"They do most of the work by hand. The farms there are small by comparison with the United States. They probably average 5 to 10 acres each. They (Chinese families) can't sell the land on the open market but they can pass it on to family members," he said.

But younger Chinese generations appear more interested in moving to town for work than to farm by hand, said Schmalsof. "Most of the farmers we met were in their 60s and 70s," he said.

With a population of 1.3 billion, China "is going to have to kick it up a gear" to meet the needs of a hungry populace, said Schmalsof. "They consume about one-half of what they grow," he said, noting that the Chinese raise an increasing amount of livestock in the southern part of the country.

But grain stocks are low in China right now, reported Schmalsof.

"Right now, (China) is buying 1.5 million tons of US corn a year. They could become a very large customer for us," he said.

China's economic activity was in full evidence during the visit, said Schmalsof. "The demand for energy there is so high. I've never seen so many cranes in my life. We saw Caterpillar equipment everywhere," he said.

TheCropSite News Desk

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