While President Donald J. Trump was announcing a threat of 10 percent tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese exports to the U.S., the Almond Board of California (ABC) was in China emphasizing the importance of trade, as well as the future of the California almond industry in China.
This August, ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott, Vice President of Global Market Development Emily Fleischmann and Almond Board Chair Holly A. King attended the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce (CFNA) annual meeting in Zhengzhou, China, on behalf of the California almond industry. This meeting brings together around 600 participants from the Chinese nut industry and worldwide supplier countries representing all tree nuts and some dried fruits.
According to Waycott, the on-going trade dispute between China and the American administration was the silent but large elephant in the room throughout the conference: “It felt as if there were new trade developments occurring at every tea break,” Waycott said.
Amidst International Tension, California Almonds Well Received
The Almond Board has maintained strong relationships with key players in the Chinese market for many years. After signing a memorandum of understanding with CFNA in 2013, the Almond Board has been working closely with that organization, specifically, to advance the California almond business in China. It was these determined efforts by ABC that contributed to a positive environment for the California almond industry and all involved.
During the conference, Waycott, King and Fleischmann met privately with the president, vice president and department director of CFNA to discuss the trade and tariff situation. The meeting concluded with unanimous agreement that, once the current international dispute can be resolved, the outlook in China for California almond exports is bright. Further, CFNA officials demonstrated appreciation for the tremendous investment that the California almond industry has made in developing the almond business in China for more than 25 years.
The Almond Board, as it has for many years, once again co-sponsored the event’s gala dinner with the Guangdong Province Nut Roasters Association, an act that showcased ABC as a long-time ally of Chinese industry colleagues. As Waycott and King walked from table to table during the dinner to toast to the success of the event, it was clear trade tensions were not an impediment.
“The demonstration of friendship and appreciation that we received as we clinked glasses was as genuine and effusive as I have experienced it in any previous year,” Waycott said. “At the end of the day, commerce and long-standing friendships always find a way to survive and thrive.”
Trade Summit Draws Large Crowd
Prior to the CFNA conference, the Almond Board hosted a trade summit for Chinese importers and processors interested to learn more about California almonds and the industry behind the product. During the summit, Waycott, King and Fleischmann spoke to the attendees about the industry’s Almond Orchard 2025 Goals, key sustainability initiatives taking place and the Almond Board’s market development efforts in China.
Needless to say, the attendance barometer demonstrated strong Chinese industry interest in growing the market for California almonds: the seminar quickly became standing room only.
“The Almond Board is highly respected, so this event drew a large crowd of Chinese buyers and industry members who wanted to hear more from ABC about the future of its marketing efforts in China, and what the California almond industry is doing to farm in a more responsible, forward-thinking manner,” King said.
Processors of California almonds also attended the summit, where they had the opportunity to meet with various members of the Chinese trade community.
“This conference was a critical opportunity for the almond industry to confirm its long-term commitment to our marketing efforts in China, particularly as other ag groups are assessing whether or not they can continue to actively market in China,” King said.
Government Efforts to Support Industry Success
In July, Waycott joined Vice President for Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs Julie Adams and Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs Principal Specialist Geoffrey Bogart in attending the 39th annual Attaché Seminar, hosted by the U.S. Agricultural Export Development Council in Washington, D.C. This conference provides representatives from U.S. agricultural commodity groups the opportunity to sit down with ag attachés from embassies across the globe to review specific issues they face in succeeding overseas.
During the one-on-one sessions, ABC staff met with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) attachés serving at posts in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The group discussed a smorgasbord of topics during the meetings, from global tariffs and inspection levels in the European Union (EU) and Japan, to trade challenges in India and Turkey, to new opportunities for ingredients in Russia, and encouraging trends in emerging markets. In the battle to secure fair access to global markets for California almonds, FAS staff are essential allies as they keep channels of communication open with foreign governments, report critical intelligence and facilitate market promotions for the Almond Board in an effort to build demand and address regulatory and technical barriers for almonds.
In addition to working with the Foreign Agricultural Service, the Almond Board is also collaborating with USDA’s Farm Service Agency on the Market Facilitation Program, which is part of USDA’s 2019 support package to assist farmers and ranchers in response to trade damage from retaliatory tariffs. This is the second tranche of funding that was first rolled out to support 2018 production. With regulatory changes in the eligibility criteria that were recently adopted, almond growers now have the opportunity to apply for funding under both the 2019 program with payments based on $146 per acre, and to reapply under the 2018 program, which was based on payments of $0.03 per pound. Applications are open until December 6 and available online at farmers.gov/MFP.
ABC will be working with the Almond Alliance to schedule workshops throughout the Central Valley; growers are encouraged to contact Toni Arellano at the Almond Board firstname.lastname@example.org with additional questions.
“We appreciate the Administration’s plan to extend the mitigation program, and the changes that were adopted that facilitate participation. These programs provide some relief but cannot offset the economic losses nor the intangible effects on trade relationships, market development investments, and our unequaled consumer confidence,” Adams said. “The Almond Board is committed to helping our growers by focusing our efforts on offsetting some of those losses through its marketing, trade and regulatory programs, so we can maintain and, where possible, grow markets for California almonds.”
Industry Remains Realistic and Determined
Amidst the Almond Board’s resolute efforts, strategic partnerships and relationships within U.S. government bodies and stakeholders overseas, no one is wearing rose-colored glasses—all are aware of the challenges that remain ahead.
“No misconception exists that the road ahead in China will be void of speed bumps and potholes. In these situations, the respective national positions and decision-making that will take place are largely beyond our control. Therefore, we will focus on what we can control: ABC supports the California almond industry by continuing to invest in and deploy trade and consumer programs in China at the same level of commitment that has been demonstrated over the past several years. The Almond Board works on impacting markets and consumers over the long term, and it will continue to do so long after this trade dispute is put to rest,” Waycott said.
To learn more about trade developments in China and other markets, as well as ABC marketing efforts across the globe, you are invited to attend The Almond Conference 2019, held Dec. 10-12 at Cal Expo in Sacramento, to hear from staff and key experts on how the Almond Board is investing grower dollars to build demand and maintain fair market access for California almonds around the globe.