US, CHINA PLAN WHEAT QUALITY DISCUSSIONS

US, CHINA PLAN WHEAT QUALITY DISCUSSIONS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Chinese officials are expected to focus on resolving a more than 20-year-old wheat quality dispute when they meet in Beijing shortly, a U.S. wheat export industry official said.

''As I understand it, this is the follow-up visit" that USDA Secretary Mike Espy promised on the wheat quality dispute when he traveled to China in October, said Susan Zillinger, a spokeswoman for U.S. Wheat Associates, a trade group.China has long refused to import any U.S. wheat that contains TCK smut - a condition that fills wheat kernels with black spores, but which the United States says poses no economic or health threat. TCK smut is most prevalent in wheat from the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

The United States and China have held technical discussions on the TCK smut issue in the past. But during his trip to China, Mr. Espy persuaded the Chinese agriculture minister to sign an agreement to try to resolve the issue by Dec 31.