World Ag Expo Day 2: Trade issues due to the Coronavirus

TULARE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Fresno's La Tapatia Tortilleria has donated tortilla chips and facemasks to China, one of their export markets.

Now, the company's export director Maylinn Xu says they're fulfilling Chinese orders of tortillas faster than they normally would because the coronavirus is changing the way Chinese residents eat.

"Because of the virus, they are staying at home," Xu said. "They cook at home. They don't go (to the) restaurant to eat. A lot of the restaurants (are) closed. So all our inventory sold out during the past three weeks and our distributors placed a new order. So next week, we're going to ship out new containers."

Xu took part in a seminar on international trade at the World Ag Expo on Wednesday.

She was joined by Gordon Hinkle, a global trade specialist with California Community Colleges.

He tells Action News that U.S. ports are taking extra precautions due to the coronavirus.

That's good, he says, but it may also be slowing down shipments arriving in the U.S.

Business-related travel to China is also being reconsidered.

"I know there's a lot of political delegations from the state of California that were planning to go to China for their upcoming import expo later this year, so there's a lot of concern of what will happen with that and of course that always puts a damper on the collaborations and additional new business that could happen," Hinkle said.

Beijing was set to host a China-U.S. meeting about plant health last week, but because of the coronavirus, it was canceled.

The California Fresh Fruit Association says it was an opportunity for the countries to agree on standards that would allow China to start importing U.S. nectarines and blueberries.

But despite all of the disruptions, local ag officials remain optimistic about trade with China.

Christopher Greer/Tulare County Asst. Agricultural Commissioner

"In the past 2018 crop report, China was in our top 5 exporting markets," says Tulare County Asst. Agricultural Commissioner Christopher Greer. "It might be a little bit lower, like I said, because of the tariffs, but we continue to still want that strong trade with them."
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