US farmers want 'their Chinese market' back

As the state of Georgia enters the pecan harvest season, local growers are anxious instead of cheerful, faced with dim business prospects following the loss of their largest overseas market in China due to massive tariffs.

Randy Hudson, a pecan grower in Ocilla, Georgia, began harvesting the variety "Desirable" in mid-October. The variety, known for its large, well-filled nuts sold at good prices, used to be a favorite of Chinese buyers. With fast shipment and proper processing, the "Desirable" nuts were usually fast sellers during the Chinese New Year shopping season. This year, however, Hudson must look for domestic or alternate foreign buyers to receive his products.

After the US unilaterally imposed massive tariffs on Chinese imports last year, China added retaliatory tariffs on US goods, making pecans currently subject to around 47 percent tariffs, up from 7 percent in early 2018.

In 1999, Hudson brought the nuts to the Chinese market when Chinese consumers knew little about pecans native to the US and often confused them with walnuts. But he and his fellow pecan growers and exporters, as well as their Chinese partners, have managed to grow the business in China, with an increasing number of consumers interested in the nut's health benefits.

Before the additional tariffs took effect, Hudson's company exported 10 to 20 million pounds (4,500 to 9,000 tons) of pecans every year, accounting for about 20 to 30 percent of Georgia's total annual pecan output.

To satisfy Chinese consumers' demands, the company used to buy pecans from other growers. China's market accounted for 90 percent of the company's total sales revenue. However, increased tariffs are eroding Hudson's business expansion in China, costing him millions of dollars in losses, and losses of more than $10 million to the whole pecan industry.

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