With Chinese demand for US produced sorghum expected to increase, Kansan farmers get to work on harvesting their crop for export. Image: Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.

Agriculture and Airplanes: The Sunflower State Basks in Increased Ties with China


Kansas had a big 2013. The year saw Kansas exports to China rise by 30 percent to $1.6 billion, solidifying China’s place as the state’s second largest export market after Canada. Over half of those exports were agricultural products such as soybeans, corn, and other crops. Another 6.4% came from transportation equipment, the bulk of which was aircraft, totaling $102 million. It is these two sectors in particular that are showing huge potential for trade growth between Kansas and China.

As the largest producer of sorghum in the United States, accounting for 43% of US sorghum production in 2013, Kansas’ agricultural exports stand to benefit immensely from China’s interest in US-produced sorghum. Last October, China accepted its first-ever shipment of American sorghum to use as animal feed. A month later, a delegation of Sorghum Checkoff leadership and board members, including Kansas farmer Adam Baldwin, went to China to participate in a sorghum road show and determine the opportunities for US sorghum-producing states in China. The trend is on a positive trajectory, with China purchasing 87% of all U.S. sorghum exports in 2013/2014.

Also on a positive trend is the aeronautical relationship between Kansas and China. On July 24th, a delegation from the Shaanxi Aviation Economic and Technological Development Zone in Xi’an, China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Wichita, Kansas on economic and trade opportunities in aviation. Wichita lies within the state’s 4th congressional district, and in 2012, aerospace products and parts exports to Asia accounted for $300 million. China was also the district’s largest export market, buying goods and products worth $233 million. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer was able to get the inside scoop on this opportunity while on a trade mission to China in 2012. This November, Mayor Brewer will be returning to China, visiting five cities to promote aviation partnerships, beginning with Zhuhai which will be hosting China’s largest air show.

Sarah Batiuk is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.