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Agriculture Press Release

March 6, 2002

Bronson launches trade initiative to open China market to Florida wood products

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson met with Chinese government leaders this week to explore new opportunities for exporting Florida products, including wood products and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Bronson met with Bi Gang, deputy consul general with the People’s Republic of China’s Consulate General’s Office in Houston, during a dinner reception in the state capital. This latest trade initiative is part of Bronson’s ongoing effort to increase Florida exports to the huge China market, which was opened to Florida fresh citrus two years ago this month.

"Our mission is to accelerate international relationships and utilize marketing as a means to increase sales abroad for our agricultural industries," Bronson said. "Our meeting with the Chinese leaders went very well, and I think the prospects of doing business with that country are high."

This week’s meeting was to lay the groundwork for future visits to China by Florida trade officials. The Chinese will assist the Florida trade delegation in receiving visas, set up meetings with China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation and the Chinese Inspection and Quarantine Office in Beijing.

The Florida trade delegation will travel to China on May 4 primarily to explore opportunities for exporting Florida wood products. Discussions will be held in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Dongguan, which is a major distribution center with 2,000 furniture manufacturers, 160 dealers and 40 registered importers of timber.

Bronson said that China’s recent entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) should help make it easier for Florida products, particularly lumber and other wood products, to compete for market share in China.

"China’s tariffs on plywood, particle board, oriented strandboard, flooring and fiberboard have moved from an average of 18 percent down to 4 percent," Bronson said. "But Florida must act quickly before other global competitors, such as Indonesia, capture the Chinese market."

Bronson’s export initiative comes at a time when Florida’s timber industry is suffering from a depressed market, with the price of Florida wood dropping $15 per ton in the past year.

"Prices for pulp are at a 25-year low, and paper mills have actually reduced capacity by 1.5 percent this year following a long period of annual growth," Bronson said. "These statistics do not bode well for this industry, which is crucial to Florida’s economic well-being. That’s why we must be aggressive in finding alternative emerging markets."

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ international marketing representatives will utilize an existing network of contacts in China -- developed over the past several years during the Department’s successful campaign to open the Chinese market to Florida citrus -- to pursue an export market for Florida wood products.

"China’s booming economy has an insatiable appetite for wood flooring, paneling, furniture and interior decorative molding; plus we’re seeing a trend toward more wood frame structures," Bronson said. "China banned logging in 18 provinces a few years ago, and I see this as a golden opportunity for our state’s southern yellow pine and cypress producers to gain a foothold in that market."

Florida’s forests generate nearly $9 billion for the state’s economy and inject nearly $1.3 billion annually in payroll receipts. There are more than 1,000 wood and paper product manufacturing sites in Florida. The forest products industry employs over 60,000 Floridians, and forest products manufacturers support another 72,000 jobs.


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