Minnesota wheat farmers have a financial stake in a proposed Shanghai bakery.
The idea is that the more flour-basednoodles and bread the Chinese eat, the bigger the market for U.S., and Minnesota, wheat in the Peoples Republic of China.
So the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council, which represents 36,000 Minnesota farmers, is the first such group to pledge money for the model Chinese bakery project. Its contribution is $50,000.
Similar farmer groups in other wheat states are expected to provide another $150,000 towards the $500,000 project. The U.s. dEpartment of Agriculture will supply the $300,000 balance as part of a general export promotion agreement with the Western Wheat Association, with which various state growers associations are affiliated.
In Minnesota, Charles Rhoades, executive secretary of the state council, said that two Minnesota farmers would go to Shanghai "to make sure we get our money's worth."
He said that last October, Fred Kreps, a farmer from Borup, Minn., was in Shanghai where he talked with American officials about the project then.
The origin of the idea, however, goes back to Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland's November 1978 visit to China. According to a department spokesman, Bergland learned then that Chinese housewives spend up to five hours a day preparing meals and baking -- even those who hold factory or office jobs.
The upshot was that Bergland and his hosts hit on the idea of improving Chinese bakery technology as one means to spur the modernization China yearns for, and to provide working Chinese wives with what amounts to a form of convenience food they can pick up on the way home from work.
The plan called for the Chinese to provide the building. The American contribution will be up-to-date equipment plus an exchange program to send our expert bakers there and to expose visiting Chinese to mass production bakeries here.
The proposed Shanghai plant is supposed to be a model and training facility to spawn other mass production bakeries, rather than being a high-volume production facility.