Chinese Look to North Carolina Green Industry for Special Trees

A Chinese delegation of influence purchasers of foreign products making a stop in North Carolina isn't all that unusual any more, but recently, Peter Thornton, Assistant Director for International Marketing for North Carolina Department of Agriculture hosted a group looking to the North Carolina green industry for landscape materials:
“They came over and met with three different nurseries and had a chance to visit Biltmore estates. There are several market opportunities out there in China especially for Red Maples. The issue is freight, figuring how to get it over there. They were mostly interested in liners, but if we could figure out a way to ship larger trees there is definitely a market for them.”

Thornton explains that this was a very influential group of horticulturist and landscape architects that have an impressive group of projects to their credit:

“These are the folks that did the Olympic Village, dress up Tiananmen Square for National Day, and are the government procurement group for the city of Beijing.”

So, why red maple trees in particular?:

“From what they tell me, the Chinese government has discovered that they turn red and they think that very appropriate for Beijing.”

Thornton explains that right now the Chinese are looking at shipping liners, small seedlings, usually less than six inches tall, then growing the trees to maturity in China:

“The larger they get, the higher the price gets. A relatively mature tree can go for thousands of dollars. That is much more than what would be paid for them here, but you have to ship them over there and you have to keep them disease free.”

As Thornton mentioned, the tour also included Biltmore Estates:

“The comment they made was that they have all of these trees but have never seen them like this. There were several that had never seen the tree that size.”

Thornton says the Chinese are looking at an initial purchase of around $200,000, but what's more notable is that what landscape materials that have been purchased in the US have exclusively come from the west coast.

Peter Thornton, Assistant Director of International Marketing with NCDA is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.