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Consumers in China Weigh Options as Trade Frictions Simmer

Simmering U.S.-China trade frictions have stirred up a furious debate among American farmers who are already facing increased tariffs from Beijing on a wide range of products from pork to fruit and nuts.

 

In the Chinese capital, Beijing, however, discussion of the topic is muted by comparison. Chinese state media are publishing lengthy articles about how China will stand its ground, with some even arguing it’s time for Beijing to teach America a lesson.

Consumers are watching the dispute closely. Some are concerned about the impact the trade tensions could have, but most that VOA spoke with were convinced they could weather the storm by buying products from other countries and sources.

 

At an open-air market in downtown Beijing, U.S. imported fruits and nuts are now still competitively priced. But when tariffs start to hit, they are likely to cost even more. One vender VOA spoke with said he is already weighing his options.

 

“I can just stop buying U.S. goods and stop selling products from America,” he said. “I can just buy goods from China. Chinese should eat products made in China.”

Tit for tat tariffs

The United States has said it will place tariffs on more than 1,300 Chinese goods if Beijing does not take steps to further open its markets, address American concerns and do more to protect intellectual property rights.

 

Chinese authorities have repeatedly voiced confidence they are prepared to fight to the end if Washington goes ahead with its tariffs, but neither side knows for certain just how broad an impact either country’s tariffs could have.

 

Both Beijing and Washington are working to minimize the impact on their own economies while working to appear tough and resolved, but tough actions can produce unintended consequences.

 

The Trump administration has already been scrambling to assure U.S. farmers they will be taken care of in the event that trade actions impact their livelihoods.

Even though China has yet to follow through on its pledge to place a 25 percent tax on soybean imports, the threat has begun to hit the price of soybeans and animal feed for pigs and poultry. And because of that, there are concerns the measure aimed at punishing American farmers in areas where political support for Trump was strong could also impact farmers and consumers in China as well.

 

Chinese officials issued a statement last week arguing that would not happen.

Price movement

 

Xiao Guoying, a researcher with the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture under the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that a minor price hike would be unavoidable if a trade war is launched.

 

But he also believes that businessmen in China and the United States are smart and will find ways around the tariffs.

 

“Suppliers still have to find markets to sell their soybeans, even if it means a price cut,” Xiao said. “If global demand and supply [of soybean] remain stable, there won’t be a major price fluctuation.”

 

In Beijing, most residents that VOA spoke with said they hoped the two sides will find a way to work the dispute out. If not, some warned that it is consumers that will end up footing the bill.

 

Miss Wang Chongyun works in the financial sector. She likes to vacation in San Diego and is a fan of Michael Kors’ products. She hopes the two countries sit down and talk soon.

 

If not, the dispute “will have an impact on the Chinese economy and that has an impact on the public’s interests,” she said. “With higher tariffs and prices, we’ll have to spend more.”

 

Ways to cope

Others, however, argue that it is foreign countries that need China more. And hence, any tariffs doomed to fail.

 

“If they [other countries] want to make money here, they have to work together with China because there are a lot of Chinese,” said one young woman.

 

Few that VOA spoke with knew what Washington is demanding or even the huge gap in access that exists between Chinese companies operating in the United States and the gridlock American and other foreign firms face trying to compete in China.

 

One man surnamed Hou, who works in the service sector, sees the trade dispute as an opportunity for China to stand up. He said China still has many weaknesses, but it also needs to improve itself and can’t always be bossed around by the United States.

 

“China’s domestic industries no longer lag behind and it can make whatever its people need,” Hou said. “There’s no need to rely on the U.S., take sports apparel, for example, there are plenty of domestic brands to choose from.”

 

 

 

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Consumers in China Weigh Options as Trade Frictions Simmer

Simmering U.S.-China trade frictions have stirred up a furious debate among American farmers who are already facing increased tariffs from Beijing on a wide range of products from pork to fruit and nuts.

 

In the Chinese capital, Beijing, however, discussion of the topic is muted by comparison. Chinese state media are publishing lengthy articles about how China will stand its ground, with some even arguing it’s time for Beijing to teach America a lesson.

Consumers are watching the dispute closely. Some are concerned about the impact the trade tensions could have, but most that VOA spoke with were convinced they could weather the storm by buying products from other countries and sources.

 

At an open-air market in downtown Beijing, U.S. imported fruits and nuts are now still competitively priced. But when tariffs start to hit, they are likely to cost even more. One vender VOA spoke with said he is already weighing his options.

 

“I can just stop buying U.S. goods and stop selling products from America,” he said. “I can just buy goods from China. Chinese should eat products made in China.”

Tit for tat tariffs

The United States has said it will place tariffs on more than 1,300 Chinese goods if Beijing does not take steps to further open its markets, address American concerns and do more to protect intellectual property rights.

 

Chinese authorities have repeatedly voiced confidence they are prepared to fight to the end if Washington goes ahead with its tariffs, but neither side knows for certain just how broad an impact either country’s tariffs could have.

 

Both Beijing and Washington are working to minimize the impact on their own economies while working to appear tough and resolved, but tough actions can produce unintended consequences.

 

The Trump administration has already been scrambling to assure U.S. farmers they will be taken care of in the event that trade actions impact their livelihoods.

Even though China has yet to follow through on its pledge to place a 25 percent tax on soybean imports, the threat has begun to hit the price of soybeans and animal feed for pigs and poultry. And because of that, there are concerns the measure aimed at punishing American farmers in areas where political support for Trump was strong could also impact farmers and consumers in China as well.

 

Chinese officials issued a statement last week arguing that would not happen.

Price movement

 

Xiao Guoying, a researcher with the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture under the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that a minor price hike would be unavoidable if a trade war is launched.

 

But he also believes that businessmen in China and the United States are smart and will find ways around the tariffs.

 

“Suppliers still have to find markets to sell their soybeans, even if it means a price cut,” Xiao said. “If global demand and supply [of soybean] remain stable, there won’t be a major price fluctuation.”

 

In Beijing, most residents that VOA spoke with said they hoped the two sides will find a way to work the dispute out. If not, some warned that it is consumers that will end up footing the bill.

 

Miss Wang Chongyun works in the financial sector. She likes to vacation in San Diego and is a fan of Michael Kors’ products. She hopes the two countries sit down and talk soon.

 

If not, the dispute “will have an impact on the Chinese economy and that has an impact on the public’s interests,” she said. “With higher tariffs and prices, we’ll have to spend more.”

 

Ways to cope

Others, however, argue that it is foreign countries that need China more. And hence, any tariffs doomed to fail.

 

“If they [other countries] want to make money here, they have to work together with China because there are a lot of Chinese,” said one young woman.

 

Few that VOA spoke with knew what Washington is demanding or even the huge gap in access that exists between Chinese companies operating in the United States and the gridlock American and other foreign firms face trying to compete in China.

 

One man surnamed Hou, who works in the service sector, sees the trade dispute as an opportunity for China to stand up. He said China still has many weaknesses, but it also needs to improve itself and can’t always be bossed around by the United States.

 

“China’s domestic industries no longer lag behind and it can make whatever its people need,” Hou said. “There’s no need to rely on the U.S., take sports apparel, for example, there are plenty of domestic brands to choose from.”

 

 

 

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Urban Millennials Go to Farmer School

Doug Fabbioli is concerned about the future of the rural economy, as urban sprawl expands from metropolitan areas into farm fields and pastureland. The Virginia winery owner decided to be part of the solution and founded The New AG School, the school’s mission is raising the next generation of farmers. 

Farming, the hardship and joy

Being a farmer is hard work, but Fabbioli says if young people knew the joys and fulfillment of farming, they’d love it. But to succeed – they will need specialized skills.

That’s what Fabbioli is hoping to teach at his new school. The goal is to fill the immediate need for farm workers, but also to prepare future leaders, those who can to be mentors and teach new people how to do this down the road. 

The New AG School attracts a wide range of students.

“We have some younger folks that are either right out of high school or even in high school,” Fabbioli says. “We have some folks who are out of college that are saying, ‘Gee, didn’t really study what I wanted and I can’t find that job I was looking for, let’s see what this farming is, and maybe I want to go further on that. ’ We also get folks that are a change life point that maybe in their 40s, or 50’s and say, ‘I have land, I want to be a farmer now, I’m ready to do something else. ”

Farm Experiences

The tuition-free program takes a step-by-step, hands on teaching approach.

Olga Goadalupe Alfoseca says joining the program helps her find the right career path. “I learned a lot of stuff like (planting) hops and raspberries. My dream is maybe I can plant my own plants and start my own business.”

Liam Marshall-Brown who quit college finds farm work interesting and engaging. “It’s fun,” he says. “I mostly did restaurants before. I was a host or inside the kitchen. You feel trapped after a while, doing the same thing over and over and over again. It’s just nice to be outside. Pretty much you’re doing something new every day, not exactly the same. I like being outside more.”

But, not all the work is outdoors. Students go through a curriculum of five different modules, covering everything from cleaning and sanitation, horticulture, hospitality, to leadership and entrepreneurship.

And the training is not complete until they learn about the machines they use every day; how they work and how to fix them. 

And as you might expect from a vineyard owner, wine making is also part of the curriculum.

Winemaker Meaghan Tardif is a mentor at the school… she teaches students winemaking – and leadership skills.

“My favorite part about being a mentor is I always give the student a chance to teach someone else.” Tardif explains. “Leadership is everywhere. It’s not just in the work. It’s not just your employees, but it helps you throughout your life.”

Cultivating dreams, saving land

The experience has inspired Marshall-Brown to find a future in agriculture.

“I would like to be that, but I still have a lot to learn to be able to do that. Hopefully I’ll get there and I’ll run my own farm one day and have people work under me.”

That pleases Fabbioli, who says it’s good for the community to have more farmers.

“This is a wealthy community,” he notes. “We are actually one of the richest counties in the nations. The goal for folks in Loudoun, on a state level or on a community level is to save the land, is to save the green space in western Loudoun County. We can do that by farming, but we need more farmers very much. So giving people the opportunity to learn, put more people to work. It may also keep the cars off the highways because they’re living locally and they’re working locally.”

That’s what the New AG School hopes to do — grow the next generation of dedicated, skillful farmers.

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Urban Millennials Go to Farmer School

Doug Fabbioli is concerned about the future of the rural economy, as urban sprawl expands from metropolitan areas into farm fields and pastureland. The Virginia winery owner decided to be part of the solution and founded The New AG School, the school’s mission is raising the next generation of farmers. 

Farming, the hardship and joy

Being a farmer is hard work, but Fabbioli says if young people knew the joys and fulfillment of farming, they’d love it. But to succeed – they will need specialized skills.

That’s what Fabbioli is hoping to teach at his new school. The goal is to fill the immediate need for farm workers, but also to prepare future leaders, those who can to be mentors and teach new people how to do this down the road. 

The New AG School attracts a wide range of students.

“We have some younger folks that are either right out of high school or even in high school,” Fabbioli says. “We have some folks who are out of college that are saying, ‘Gee, didn’t really study what I wanted and I can’t find that job I was looking for, let’s see what this farming is, and maybe I want to go further on that. ’ We also get folks that are a change life point that maybe in their 40s, or 50’s and say, ‘I have land, I want to be a farmer now, I’m ready to do something else. ”

Farm Experiences

The tuition-free program takes a step-by-step, hands on teaching approach.

Olga Goadalupe Alfoseca says joining the program helps her find the right career path. “I learned a lot of stuff like (planting) hops and raspberries. My dream is maybe I can plant my own plants and start my own business.”

Liam Marshall-Brown who quit college finds farm work interesting and engaging. “It’s fun,” he says. “I mostly did restaurants before. I was a host or inside the kitchen. You feel trapped after a while, doing the same thing over and over and over again. It’s just nice to be outside. Pretty much you’re doing something new every day, not exactly the same. I like being outside more.”

But, not all the work is outdoors. Students go through a curriculum of five different modules, covering everything from cleaning and sanitation, horticulture, hospitality, to leadership and entrepreneurship.

And the training is not complete until they learn about the machines they use every day; how they work and how to fix them. 

And as you might expect from a vineyard owner, wine making is also part of the curriculum.

Winemaker Meaghan Tardif is a mentor at the school… she teaches students winemaking – and leadership skills.

“My favorite part about being a mentor is I always give the student a chance to teach someone else.” Tardif explains. “Leadership is everywhere. It’s not just in the work. It’s not just your employees, but it helps you throughout your life.”

Cultivating dreams, saving land

The experience has inspired Marshall-Brown to find a future in agriculture.

“I would like to be that, but I still have a lot to learn to be able to do that. Hopefully I’ll get there and I’ll run my own farm one day and have people work under me.”

That pleases Fabbioli, who says it’s good for the community to have more farmers.

“This is a wealthy community,” he notes. “We are actually one of the richest counties in the nations. The goal for folks in Loudoun, on a state level or on a community level is to save the land, is to save the green space in western Loudoun County. We can do that by farming, but we need more farmers very much. So giving people the opportunity to learn, put more people to work. It may also keep the cars off the highways because they’re living locally and they’re working locally.”

That’s what the New AG School hopes to do — grow the next generation of dedicated, skillful farmers.

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China Eyes Australian Donkey Exports

The Northern Territory government in Australia says it has been approached by nearly 50 Chinese companies looking to buy land to start donkey farms. Demand for donkey products, especially donkey-hide gelatin is increasing in China, while global supplies are falling.

The Northern Territory government has bought a small herd of wild donkeys for its research station near the outback town of Katherine. Earlier this a month of delegation of Chinese business people visited the facility, and up to 50 companies from China have expressed interest in buying land to set up donkey farms.

It is estimated there are up to 60,000 wild donkeys in the Northern Territory. Donkeys were brought to Australia from Africa as pack animals in the 1860s, and many were released when they were no longer needed. For years feral donkeys have been considered a major pest by farmers.The animals trample native vegetation, spread weeds and compete with domestic cattle for food and water.

Now the authorities believe there are economic benefits in captive donkey herds.

Alister Trier, the head of the Northern Territory’s department of primary industry believes the donkey trade has a bright future.

“My feel[ing] is the industry will develop but it will not displace the cattle industry, for example, I just do not think that will happen.What it will do is add some diversification opportunities for the use of pastoral land and Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory,” said Trier.

In China, donkey skins are boiled down to make gelatin, which is then used in alternative Chinese medicines and cosmetics.

Animal rights campaigners are pressuring the authorities not to allow the live export of donkeys to China, claiming that conditions in transit would be cruel and unacceptable.

Activists also insist that donkeys’ health suffers when they are kept in large herds.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Australia wants the donkey skin trade stopped altogether because of concerns the animals are being skinned alive overseas and treated with extreme cruelty.

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China Eyes Australian Donkey Exports

The Northern Territory government in Australia says it has been approached by nearly 50 Chinese companies looking to buy land to start donkey farms. Demand for donkey products, especially donkey-hide gelatin is increasing in China, while global supplies are falling.

The Northern Territory government has bought a small herd of wild donkeys for its research station near the outback town of Katherine. Earlier this a month of delegation of Chinese business people visited the facility, and up to 50 companies from China have expressed interest in buying land to set up donkey farms.

It is estimated there are up to 60,000 wild donkeys in the Northern Territory. Donkeys were brought to Australia from Africa as pack animals in the 1860s, and many were released when they were no longer needed. For years feral donkeys have been considered a major pest by farmers.The animals trample native vegetation, spread weeds and compete with domestic cattle for food and water.

Now the authorities believe there are economic benefits in captive donkey herds.

Alister Trier, the head of the Northern Territory’s department of primary industry believes the donkey trade has a bright future.

“My feel[ing] is the industry will develop but it will not displace the cattle industry, for example, I just do not think that will happen.What it will do is add some diversification opportunities for the use of pastoral land and Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory,” said Trier.

In China, donkey skins are boiled down to make gelatin, which is then used in alternative Chinese medicines and cosmetics.

Animal rights campaigners are pressuring the authorities not to allow the live export of donkeys to China, claiming that conditions in transit would be cruel and unacceptable.

Activists also insist that donkeys’ health suffers when they are kept in large herds.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Australia wants the donkey skin trade stopped altogether because of concerns the animals are being skinned alive overseas and treated with extreme cruelty.

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Full Steam Ahead for Mozambique’s Rail Network

Dozens of passengers line up in single file along the platform in the dead of night, ready to gather their luggage and pile into the ageing railway carriages.

At the small railway station in Nampula, in northeastern Mozambique, the 4:00 a.m. train to Cuamba in the north west is more than full, as it is every day, to the detriment of those slow to board and forced to stand.

In recent years, the government in Maputo has made developing the train network a priority as part of its economic plan.

But mounting public debt has meant that authorities had no choice but to cede control of the project to the private sector.

Seconds before the train — six passenger coaches coupled between two elderly US-made locomotives — leaves Nampula station, the platforms are already entirely empty.

No one can afford to be late.

Inside, the carriages remain pitch dark until the sun rises as the operator has not installed any lighting.

A blast of the horn and the sound of grinding metal marks the train’s stately progress along the 350-kilometre (220-mile) line to Cuamba — more than 10 hours away.

Five or six passengers cram onto benches intended for four without a murmur of complaint.

“The train is always full,” said Argentina Armendo, his son kneeling down nearby.

“Lots of people stay standing. Even those who have a ticket can’t be sure of getting on. They should add some coaches!”

‘Enormous growth potential’

“Yes, but it’s not expensive,” insists the conductor Edson Fortes, cooly. “It’s the most competitive means of transport for the poor. With the train, they are able to travel.”

Sitting in a vast, ferociously air-conditioned office Mario Moura da Silva, the rail operations manager for CDN, the company operating the line, appears more concerned about passenger numbers as a measure of success than perhaps their comfort.

In 2017, its trains carried almost 500,000 — a 265-percent increase on a year earlier.

“Passenger traffic isn’t profitable but it’s a requirement of the contract with the government,” said Moura da Silva.

“It’s not that which earns us money, it’s more the retail,” he added, referring to the company’s commercial operation, which has grown by 65 percent in a year.

Brazilian mining giant Vale, which owns CDN along with Japanese conglomerate Mitsui, began its Mozambican rail venture in 2005.

Having won a contract to run the concession from the government, it restored the former colonial line, which linked its inland coal mines with the port at Nacala.

It now operates a network of 1,350 kilometres (840 miles) following an investment of nearly $5 billion (around 4 billion euros).

“The growth potential is enormous,” said Moura da Silva.

Rail corridors

Mozambique’s government is eyeing the project as a bellwether for the industry.

“We have made infrastructure one of our four investment priorities,” said Transport Minister Carlos Fortes Mesquita.

“Thanks to this investment, the country recorded a strong growth in the railway sector.”

Eight new “rail corridor” projects are now under way in Mozambique, all funded with private capital, as the state grapples with a long-standing cash shortage.

The government has been engulfed in a scandal linked to secret borrowing by the treasury, which is juggling debt amounting to 112 percent of GDP.

As a result, a handful of large companies, attracted by Mozambique’s vast mineral wealth, have taken the lead in developing the country’s rail infrastructure.

But it is unclear if their interest in the sector will continue in the long-term.

Until the coal runs out?

“Today the Nacala line only exists because of coal. But once the mine closes, who will be able to justify continuing operations?” asked Benjamin Pequenino, an economist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

“The private sector won’t continue to invest if it knows it will lose money,” he said.

But in the absence of any alternative, former parliament speaker Abdul Carimo accepts that public-private partnerships are the least worst option.

Carimo, who remains close to the ruling party, now heads up the “Zambezi Development Corridor”.

The scheme is managed by Thai group, ITD, and plans to build 480 kilometres of track between Macuse port and the coal mines at Moatize for a price tag of $2.3 billion.

Carimo, who closely follows developments on the project, has vowed that “his” line will not only be used to carry minerals but will stimulate activity across the region it serves.

“I hate coal but I want this infrastructure to relaunch agriculture in Zambezi province,” he said, adding that the region was “one of the richest in the country in the 1970s.”

 

 

 

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Full Steam Ahead for Mozambique’s Rail Network

Dozens of passengers line up in single file along the platform in the dead of night, ready to gather their luggage and pile into the ageing railway carriages.

At the small railway station in Nampula, in northeastern Mozambique, the 4:00 a.m. train to Cuamba in the north west is more than full, as it is every day, to the detriment of those slow to board and forced to stand.

In recent years, the government in Maputo has made developing the train network a priority as part of its economic plan.

But mounting public debt has meant that authorities had no choice but to cede control of the project to the private sector.

Seconds before the train — six passenger coaches coupled between two elderly US-made locomotives — leaves Nampula station, the platforms are already entirely empty.

No one can afford to be late.

Inside, the carriages remain pitch dark until the sun rises as the operator has not installed any lighting.

A blast of the horn and the sound of grinding metal marks the train’s stately progress along the 350-kilometre (220-mile) line to Cuamba — more than 10 hours away.

Five or six passengers cram onto benches intended for four without a murmur of complaint.

“The train is always full,” said Argentina Armendo, his son kneeling down nearby.

“Lots of people stay standing. Even those who have a ticket can’t be sure of getting on. They should add some coaches!”

‘Enormous growth potential’

“Yes, but it’s not expensive,” insists the conductor Edson Fortes, cooly. “It’s the most competitive means of transport for the poor. With the train, they are able to travel.”

Sitting in a vast, ferociously air-conditioned office Mario Moura da Silva, the rail operations manager for CDN, the company operating the line, appears more concerned about passenger numbers as a measure of success than perhaps their comfort.

In 2017, its trains carried almost 500,000 — a 265-percent increase on a year earlier.

“Passenger traffic isn’t profitable but it’s a requirement of the contract with the government,” said Moura da Silva.

“It’s not that which earns us money, it’s more the retail,” he added, referring to the company’s commercial operation, which has grown by 65 percent in a year.

Brazilian mining giant Vale, which owns CDN along with Japanese conglomerate Mitsui, began its Mozambican rail venture in 2005.

Having won a contract to run the concession from the government, it restored the former colonial line, which linked its inland coal mines with the port at Nacala.

It now operates a network of 1,350 kilometres (840 miles) following an investment of nearly $5 billion (around 4 billion euros).

“The growth potential is enormous,” said Moura da Silva.

Rail corridors

Mozambique’s government is eyeing the project as a bellwether for the industry.

“We have made infrastructure one of our four investment priorities,” said Transport Minister Carlos Fortes Mesquita.

“Thanks to this investment, the country recorded a strong growth in the railway sector.”

Eight new “rail corridor” projects are now under way in Mozambique, all funded with private capital, as the state grapples with a long-standing cash shortage.

The government has been engulfed in a scandal linked to secret borrowing by the treasury, which is juggling debt amounting to 112 percent of GDP.

As a result, a handful of large companies, attracted by Mozambique’s vast mineral wealth, have taken the lead in developing the country’s rail infrastructure.

But it is unclear if their interest in the sector will continue in the long-term.

Until the coal runs out?

“Today the Nacala line only exists because of coal. But once the mine closes, who will be able to justify continuing operations?” asked Benjamin Pequenino, an economist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

“The private sector won’t continue to invest if it knows it will lose money,” he said.

But in the absence of any alternative, former parliament speaker Abdul Carimo accepts that public-private partnerships are the least worst option.

Carimo, who remains close to the ruling party, now heads up the “Zambezi Development Corridor”.

The scheme is managed by Thai group, ITD, and plans to build 480 kilometres of track between Macuse port and the coal mines at Moatize for a price tag of $2.3 billion.

Carimo, who closely follows developments on the project, has vowed that “his” line will not only be used to carry minerals but will stimulate activity across the region it serves.

“I hate coal but I want this infrastructure to relaunch agriculture in Zambezi province,” he said, adding that the region was “one of the richest in the country in the 1970s.”

 

 

 

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