Overseas exports: Organic operation sells millet to Chinese companyWritten by Saige Albert
“One of our organic buyers contacted us and asked if we would be interested in producing millet for a Chinese company,” explained Jessica. “We said, ‘Yes,’ and before we knew it, they contacted us right away to be organically inspected, which is what we are doing today.”
Following the inspection, Clint says, “We passed the inspection, and I got notice from the buyer saying they are looking forward to a long-term relationship.”
“Each country has a certifying process and, just recently, China has adopted a process of certification,” explained director of organic ingredients at Specialty Food Ingredients Shane Rohan, who markets the Jessens’ organic wheat.
Rohan works across the U.S. and internationally to market a variety of organic products for producers, and seeks find the most profitable sources of revenue for organic growers.
He noted that the Chinese representatives conducted an evaluation of Jessen’s practices to verify that they are, in fact, organic, and that their standards comply with Chinese regulations.
“It more or less entails them coming and looking at the fields that are planted or will be planted to millet,” added Jessica. “They will come back later and do an audit of sorts, where they will look through our paperwork to maintain the integrity of the program.”
Each year, Clint noted that Chinese representatives will be sent to inspect their property to maintain their certification.
Since taking over his grandfather’s farm in 2000, Clint has made a number of changes, including expanding the operation and transitioning to organic production methods.
“We have grown from 2,500 acres to 18,000 acres,” said Jessica, adding that the growth has also allowed them to pursue larger markets. By becoming a certified organic operation in 2002, the Jessens have chosen to further increase their marketing ability.
“Our main product is winter wheat. Millet is a secondary crop,” explained Jessica, adding that they sell to a wide variety of markets.
The Jessens use a three-season rotation, planting wheat in the first year, fallowing in the second and raising millet in the third.
“We have a dry, arid climate, so we typically raise wheat, fallow and millet,” explained Clint to the Chinese representatives. “Proso millet is the third crop in our rotation.”
The seasonal harvesting differences also allow for the prevention of cross contamination between wheat and millet, explained Rohan.
“We can adjust our acres of millet from 100 acres to thousands of acres, depending on your needs,” he added. “This year, we have approximately 800 acres planted.”
Though Jessen Wheat Company has grown millet previously, selling internationally is a first for the operation, and they aim to build good rapport with the company to open more doors in the future.
“Since 2002, it’s been a whirlwind of expansion,” remarked farm manager Jeremiah Johnson. “They found a niche market, and we really rode the wave.”
“It is interesting. From the dynamics of the world, so far organic has been isolated to the U.S.,” said Rohan. “We are the biggest consumers of organic foods, and now the world is starting to recognize the need to have purer food and sustainable type production.”
With countries around the world adopting organic certification programs, Rohan said that it is clear organic is growing more popular.
“Organic foods are growing at 10 to 15 percent in the U.S.,” he explained.
“In the world, they don’t have the figure yet for how much it is increasing,” added Rohan, speaking about organic consumption rates, “but countries like China are starting to adopt organic programs when they haven’t in the past, and the volumes and amount of organic production needed will be great for an organic farmer.”
He noted that organic growers will likely have more opportunities, higher prices and more demand as a result.
“Hopefully, it leads to more farmers realizing that organic is a viable way to farm,” Rohan said.
“It’s been exciting for all of us,” said Johnson of the export opportunity. “It’s ground breaking. We’re a small farm in the scope of the world, and we’re doing business internationally.”
“We hope that, in selling to China, we will show that our product is good enough to go overseas and that our product is outstanding in the fields,” said Jessica. “You are in charge of your own destiny in agriculture, and by thinking out of the box, sometimes it can benefit you in great ways.”
Jessen Wheat Company is the first farm in the U.S. to be certified organic by China.
Clint added, “We have the quantity and quality to do international business and to not only represent ourselves and our farm, but Wyoming and the U.S., as producers of a high quality, high-end product.”
“We just opened up a box that has 1.4 billion people in it, and this manufacturing company could be just step one in our international trade with China,” Clint commented. “The sky is the limit now that we hold this organic certificate in China. I think this is fantastic for our company.”
Biostime reaches out
Biostime is a publicly traded Chinese company that focuses on serving premium pediatric nutrition and baby care product to its consumers.
Biostime is one of three brand names that markets formulas, probiotic supplements and nutrition supplements. BMcare and Mama100, the two other brand names, market baby care products and serve new mothers.
“We import proso millet from the U.S. and European companies,” explained procurement quality manager for Biostime Daisy Zheng during the company’s May 30 visit to Jessen Wheat Company. “Our main product is infant formulas and powders.”
She added that the company represents 85 percent of the children’s probiotic supplements market in China and offers extensive baby care and nutrition.
The company’s website says, “Biostime Company aims at accompanying pregnant and nursing mothers throughout their motherhood by providing them with qualitative and innovative solutions for themselves and their children.”
To learn more about Biostime, visit biostime.com.