UNL CropWatch Nov. 16, 2010: China Mission by Dry Bean Contingent Opens Doors to Future Cooperation

UNL CropWatch Nov. 16, 2010: China Mission by Dry Bean Contingent Opens Doors to Future Cooperation

November 16, 2010

A recent trade mission to China might open some doors for the Nebraska dry bean industry into a populous country that is both a competitor and a potential growth market, according to members of the delegation.

Photo of UNL dry bean delegation in China

Members of the Nebraska dry bean trade delegation traveling to China are (from left): Leo Hoehn of Stateline Bean Cooperative; Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture; Lynn Reuter of the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission; Linda Boeckner, director of the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center; and Stan Garbacz, foreign market representative with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. In the background is the Beijing National Stadium, site of the 2008 summer Olympics.

In late October, five Nebraskans traveled to Beijing and nearby areas: Lynn Reuter, administrative assistant for the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission; Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture; Stan Garbacz, foreign market representative, Nebraska Department of Agriculture; Linda Boeckner, director of the UNL Panhandle REC at Scottsbluff; and Leo Hoehn of the Stateline Bean Cooperative.

Reuter said the Dry Bean Commission wants to broaden its global market share to help keep bean prices more stable. Several years ago great northern beans, almost all of which are grown in Nebraska, were off the market for months when several important foreign markets dried up.

The Dry Bean Commission targeted China because it is both a competitor in producing beans and a potential growth market for consumption, she said. The goal of the trip was to start building relationships and sharing information with key Chinese leaders in food processing and nutrition.

Chinese food processors typically use dry edible beans differently than American companies, where soups, stews and salads, are popular. In China, beans are made into paste for pastries or ground into flour for food products. There needs to be much exploration into how beans might be used in Chinese foods and what effects they would have on flavor, nutritional quality, and other attributes, Boeckner said.

In Beijing the team visited the Chinese Food Science and Technology Institute, a government organization looking at new ways of processing ag products, and the Chinese Nutrition Institute, which is interested in improving the diets of Chinese citizens.

Further cooperation between the university and Chinese officials is a real possibility as a result of the trip, Boeckner said.

UNL representatives in Scottsbluff and Lincoln will be working together to respond to an invitation to develop a proposal related to dry bean quality, nutrition, and how dry beans can fit into the Chinese diet. One result could be a seminar and a return trip to China by a Nebraska delegation of university researchers.

Another possibility would be a return trip to Nebraska by a Chinese delegation.

“It would be great, I think, to be able to bring folks from some of their government agencies and food companies to see our bean production and what we do here on the research side,” Boeckner said.

Boeckner and Reuter said Ibach and Garbacz were vital to carrying out the mission. Their foreign trade experience was important and their presence opened doors in China, they said.

The group also visited several Chinese food processors, including Wilmar, the largest dry bean packing and processing company in China; Kyo-Nichi, a Japanese bean paste manufacturer interested in obtaining samples of all Nebraska market classes of dry edible beans to see if they could be used in their products; and Masterkong, the largest manufacturer of popular instant noodle cups.

“Most people recognize we have a (worldwide) population that’s going to have to be fed,” Boeckner said, “and dry beans will be a part of that picture if we continue to work on it. At this point we’re really hopeful.”

The trip was funded by the Nebraska Dry Bean Checkoff program.

David Ostdiek, Communication Specialist
Panhandle REC, Scottsbluff