A delegation from the giant Chinese state owned agribusiness, Heilongjiang Beidahuang Nongken Group Co. (Beidahuang Group) toured Kitimat and Kitimat harbour Thursday, to evaluate the harbour for possible expansion beyond the current facilities owned by Rio Tinto Alcan and the Methanex/ Cenovus Energy terminal purchased Wednesday by Shell Canada.
Accompanying the delegation from the Beidahuang Group were executives from Hangfeng Evergeen, one of the world’s major producers of fertilizer, with headquarters in Toronto, but with most of its business in China and Southeast Asia.
Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said the delegation is on a tour of British Columbia ports looking for the best place to ship agricultural products to and from China. Monaghan said that when the delegation met with BC premier Christy Clark earlier, Clark suggested that they include Kitimat on their itinerary.
In China, Beidahuang operates 104 state-owned farms, supplying crops to Beijing, Shanghai, and the military, using about 1,400,000 tonnes of fertilizer a year.
As an exporter, Beidahuang sells kidney beans, green mung beans, small red beans, cow peas, and soybeans to Canada, South America, South Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe.
Beidahuang has been aggressively expanding its holdings around the world in the past few years, purchasing or developing agricultural holdings in Canada, Russia, the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. As an importer, Beidahuang deals in wheat, corn, soybeans, fruit and vegetables and wine. The company also has holdings in oil and mining.
In 2010, Hanfeng Evergreen signed a joint venture agreement with Beidahuang to establish a fertilizer factory in northern Heilongjiang province
Monaghan said the delegation was looking at possibly either new or expanded port facilities in Kitimat to handle the import and export of the agricultural products and fertilizers. It will be some time before any decision is made, since the delegation will return to China and evaluate its tour before making any decision.
Beidahuang’s world wide expansion has been somewhat controversial.
Bloomberg reported that Beidahuang’s $1.5 billion investment in Argentina’s Patagonia, which would include upgrading unused land and expanding port facilities there, brought objections from local farmers and activists because the agreement with government of Rio Negro province means farmers “will be kept captive by the Chinese for 20 years” since the agreement would force farmers to sell their produce to Beidahuang.
Beidahuang is also heavily investing in palm oil plantations across Southeast Asia, which brings objections from environmental activists who say vulnerable and valuable tropical rainforest is destroyed so the palm oil plantations can be established.