With two days remaining on a 10-day trade mission to China, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Jamie Clover Adams said Monday the Chinese are interested in some of Michigan's biggest crops.
On a phone call to The Detroit News from Chengdu, Adams said Michigan cherries continue to be one of the biggest exports to the country, while the Chinese are very interested in soybeans, dairy products like powdered milk and other dried fruits.
But the logistics of shipping and competition in fruit production from the western part of the United States makes it more difficult, the agriculture department said.
"There's a big appetite here for foreign products because they're viewed as safe," she said. "We have diversity and a really safe product, and that gives us an advantage."
Michigan had about $23.4 million in agricultural-related trade with China in 2011, Michigan's agriculture department said. The aim is to at least double that by 2015.
Adams said Michigan's fruit exports have grown drastically in the last five years. In 2007, she noted, the Great Lakes State didn't export any cherries or dried fruit to China. In 2011, Michigan sent 150 metric tons of cherries overseas and exported $300,000 worth of dried fruit.
The director said the Chinese haven't expressed concern over Michigan's unusual winter-spring weather that destroyed much of the state's fruit crops.
The trip ends on Wednesday. But before then, Adams - along with Gov. Rick Snyder and other state representatives - will attend a Chinese trade show and meet with the country's Agriculture Trade Office.
With a packed schedule, Adams said there's been little time to see the sights, but did note the country is not what she expected.
"I've never been to China," she said. "I thought it would be very foreign, but they're really not that different than we are. That was really an eye-opener for me."