Winding down in Hong Kong

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I've been in China now for nine days, traveling with a group of Ohio and Illinois farmers on the Illinois Farm Bureau Market Study tour. It's been an eye-opener, but now we're winding down and preparing to go home. Quite a few in our group have gotten sick in the last few days, and I think it's mostly just from travel and exhaustion.

Yesterday we took a train from Guangzhou, the sub-provincial city and capital of Guangdong, a South China province known for its Canton-style food and heavily-traded  commercial base. "One word characterizes this region: water,•bCrLf says Joani Dong, a USDA Foreign Ag Service specialist who has joined our group here. "The region is surrounded by water and historically has attracted people from all over the world.•bCrLf The region is the most populous in China, was 270 million people, including migrant workers who have jobs in factories along the coast. Those jobs are under fire now because of the global economic meltdown.

Like most of China, Guangzhou (left) is a study in contrasts. The people are extremely industrious and waste nothing. You'll see them lugging huge hunks of carpeting or bamboo, dragging along behind them on their bicycles, or sweeping up streets that are already so clean you could eat eggs off them. You'll see worn down tenement buildings next to pristine new skyscrapers. The region is booming with new retail development, including Wal-Mart and other foreign-based grocery chains. There are over 500 7-11 convenience stores here.

We arrived in Hong Kong, the former British-held territory now controlled by the Chinese, and one of the most dynamic trading ports in the world. While China technically controls Hong Kong, it is for the most part self-governing, with its own currency. We made a quick stop at Modern Terminal Co., one of the largest container shipping facilities in the world. This company has the capacity to handle over 5 million TEUs! A standard 40-foot container equals two TEUs. Anything you want to ship, refrigerated or otherwise, can be moved this way. Containerized shipping is a growing industry and important to anyone who has sold specialty grain overseas.

Modern Terminal Co. at left

Today will be our last full day on the tour, with stops at Hong Kong's FAS office as well as visits at the local wet markets. My next blog will be observations from the farmers who participated on this tour — and I'll be writing it from home.




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