On September 24, a group of 18 Japanese peanut buyers visited the Hubbard Peanut Company in Sedley to take a tour of the peanut processing plant there.
The National Peanut Board and the American Peanut Council sponsored the tour, which allowed the Japanese delegation to visit during harvest time, so to learn about how peanuts are produced in the United States.
Before taking a tour of the facilities, the governor of Virginia greeted the group at the governor’s mansion in Richmond, where they all had lunch together.
In addition to visiting the Hubbard Peanut Company, the delegation also made stops at other peanut-related facilities in the area. This included Birdsong Peanuts, Indika Farms, the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Education Center and the Severn Peanut Company.
Marshall Rabil, who is the director of sales and marketing at the Hubbard Peanut Company, greeted the delegation when they arrived. He further delivered a prepared speech in Japanese before giving the delegation a tour of the facilities, including its production area.
Lynne Rabil, who is the president of the Hubbard Peanut Company, also delivered a speech to the group. She said that her company was honored to welcome the delegation to “our little corner of our country,” so that they could share their story with them. She further mentioned how her company was celebrating its 60th anniversary of being in business and that, while it was a small company by American standards, it proudly serves customers that are located in countries across the world.
Rabil also related an interesting anecdote to the group. She told them that, back in the 1980s — when fax machines were first introduced to American businesses — the first order they received over one of them was from a company in Japan.
In addition to the 18 Japanese peanut buyers, a number of people in the peanut industry toured the facilities as well. This included Dell Cotton, who works for the Virginia Peanut Growers Association, Patrick Archer, who is the executive director of the American Peanut Council, and a number of other people who are associated with the peanut industry. All of them accompanied the delegation throughout the entire tour.
Cotton said that the American Peanut Council arranged the tour as a kind of trade mission. He further said that Japanese companies would like purchase peanuts not just from Virginia but also from North and South Carolina. He went on to say that this particular area is very diversified. He specially referred to all the different types of peanut processing plants in the area, and he said that they showed the delegation many variations of this during the tour.
Jeff Johnson, who is the president of Birdsong Peanuts in Suffolk, also issued a statement in regards to the Japanese delegation and their tour. He said that in the past — specifically from 1970 to 1990 — Japanese companies bought lots of peanuts from producers in Virginia, but they afterward switched to Chinese sources. He thinks, though, that this is in the process of reversing.
Johnson cited two reasons for this. The first reason is that the Chinese are exporting less peanuts because they are eating more of them, which has further caused their price to rise. The second reason the Japanese are switching back to American peanuts is that there are a number of food safety issues affecting Chinese peanuts.
Johnson went on to say that Japanese companies are very loyal. He even knew some of the fathers of those who participated in the delegation, and he and others reminded the group of their long history.
Johnson called visit “very successful.”
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