Georgia agricultural companies will be able to benefit tremendously from the changes that have taken place in China over the last decade and from the country’s accession into the World Trade Organization, said Andrés Villegas, director of the office of international trade at the state agricultural department.

Mr. Villegas accompanied Tommy Irvin, Georgia commissioner of agriculture, and several representatives of agricultural firms on a two-week trade mission to China last month.  He said that the department would seek to open an office in China soon.

In the cities there is evidence of a growing middle class and a lot more money to spend, he said. Automobiles appear to outnumber bicycles and people can now own their own homes, said Mr. Villegas, instead of relying on companies to provide housing for them.

Georgia has already benefited from reforms in China’s policy on cotton, said Mr. Villegas. Cotton exports from the U.S. to Hong Kong in the first four months of this year were 4000% higher than at the same time last year. Georgia is the second highest U.S. producer of cotton. As tariffs are lowered, he said, more products including cotton will likely be shipped directly to the mainland, bypassing Hong Kong.

There is a major demand for forestry products, mainly grass, trees and seed, an area that Georgia has vast expertise in, said Mr. Villegas. Deforestation in China has spawned the growth of the desert to the West and sandstorms in some cities are frequent. The government has required that all land must be covered with grass or concrete.

Mr. Villegas advised that most agricultural companies should at this point take a single city-market approach. There is a lack of good transportation between locations, especially for items that require refrigeration, and the cities have massive populations (about 10 million people in the major cities, 6-8 million in the second tier cities).

In addition, local governments tend to have varying and complex requirements, he said. When these individual governments have to adhere to international law, hopefully the process will become more streamlined, he said.

Call the Georgia Department of Agriculture at (404) 656-3740 or visit the Web site at