SHANGHAI, China – A Chinese agribusiness firm announced Thursday that it will open an Omaha office to export meat products to China.
Lu Jing Jing, chairman of the Shanghai Liuhe Qinqiang Food Co., said she also will investigate the viability of starting a Nebraska meatpacking plant to supply her export business.
“People here are longing for quality food,” Lu said through an interpreter.
The announcement came as part of Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's trade mission to China. The delegation is now in Shanghai, a commercial hub that is the most affluent part of China.
It's also going to be the site of a fulltime Nebraska trade office for China.
Thursday, Heineman signed documents to establish an office to encourage Chinese investment in Nebraska and showcase Nebraska businesses. The state also has a trade office in Japan.
Nebraska's new China office will cost the state $50,000 a year -- $30,000 for the office itself, and $20,000 for travel to Nebraska and around China.
Nebraska's partner in the new office is the Shanghai Small and Medium Enterprises
Center for International Cooperation, which will contribute a similar amount. The center is a quasi-government agency that has worked with Nebraska for years on economic development issues.
The center was involved in steering Lu's company to Nebraska during several “reverse trade missions” for foreign companies.
In May, she incorporated Qinqiang International Development in Nebraska.
It isn't clear when Qinqiang actually will begin operating. Lu is planning a visit to the state in October.
In China, she said, her company employs about 300 people and distributes pork, beef, lamb, duck, chicken and other meat products through the country. In Shanghai alone, she said, the company keeps 65 trucks busy with deliveries.
She declined to reveal detailed financial information, but indicated that her company's annual sales are well over $100 million.
Recently, a share of her company, which she founded in 1999, was purchased by New Hope, a huge Chinese agribusiness conglomerate.
Rising incomes and a growing middle class have increased China's appetite for meat products, Lu said, and the market is only going to increase.
China generally bans U.S. beef imports, but Lu said she is optimistic that will change.
Lu said it hasn't been decided whether Qinqiang will start a meat processing plant, which would allow the company to target cuts to the Asian market.
Initially, she said, the company would need only a few employees. But depending on how the business grows, she said, it's possible that total Nebraska employment might exceed that of her China company.
Lu said she valued the relationships she has developed in recent years with state and local people who have been courting her business. She has worked with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
She also said she was impressed with Nebraska's public school system and good environment.
The announcement followed Heineman's signing of Nebraska's Shanghai office agreement with Robert Cai, who heads the Small and Medium Enterprises Center.
Cai, Heineman, and other delegation members then drove to a building where the Nebraska office will be located.
“This is an important day for Nebraska-China business relations,” Heineman said.