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BOISE — Officials from Idaho and Taiwan signed a $576 million, two-year deal Tuesday for Taiwan flour mills to purchase 1.8 million metric tons of Idaho wheat.

“That’s one ton for every man, woman and child in Idaho,” said a smiling Gov. Brad Little before the ceremonial signing of the agreement in the Capitol rotunda. He added, “It is not just ceremonial. Taiwan follows through on their purchases year after year.”

Kuo-Shu Fan, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, said, “Bilateral relations between Idaho and Taipei have been so robust.”

Taiwan is Idaho’s second-largest agricultural export destination, he noted, while Idaho is Taiwan’s sixth-largest export destination.

“We would like to do more,” Fan said. “We would like to have more trade between Taiwan enterprises and the United States.”

Little announced that toward that end, he will lead his first official trade mission as governor in October to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, which is also known as the Republic of China. The island is east of mainland China, and southwest of Japan and South Korea.

Little noted that the Taiwan Flour Mills Association has been bringing teams to Idaho since 1970.

“I look forward to bringing a diverse delegation of Idaho companies to Taiwan and having the kind of fruitful relations that we have had for decades and decades,” he said.

The agreement signed says in part, “The Republic of China, Taiwan, and the United States enjoy a close and longstanding partnership built on a shared dedication to freedom, democracy and a market economy.” It was signed by Little; Fan; Idaho Wheat Commission Chairman Ned Moon; and Taiwan Flour Mills Association head Tony Yi-Chuen Shu.

Idaho wheat is prized in Taiwan, Moon said, because of its consistent high quality and its reliable delivery.

Shu echoed that. In his nation, he said, “Per capita consumption of wheat-related products (has) surpassed rice. That is amazing. … That is a change.”

Little said, “Exports are critical to Idaho’s agricultural economy. Thirty-one percent of farm incomes come directly from exports, and over 50% of Idaho’s wheat is exported to international markets. Thank you, Taiwan, for being such a longtime partner.”

The amount of wheat that the Taiwan flour mills will purchase over the next two years is comparable to the amount purchased over the past two years, but the volume has been inching up.

“It’s a little bit of status quo, but we’ll take it anyway,” Little joked.

“The reason it’s important is because they always honor the commitment,” he said. “The farmers, the fact that they know that the product that they just got in storage, the product they got at the elevators, the product they’re going to grow next year has got a home for it, is just a big darn deal.”

After the signing of the agreement, Little presented each member of the delegation from Taiwan with a ceramic plate commemorating Idaho agriculture.

Little joked, “As always, when our Taiwanese friends come to Idaho, it’s an honor to meet with them — particularly when we’re doing business, when there’s cash involved.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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