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China and the 'Ham Capital of the World'



From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

The Chinese meat processing company Shuanghui International is proposing to buy the American ham and pork producer Smithfield Foods. It would be the biggest purchase of an American company by a Chinese buyer. Ham and pork are the meat of pigs. Virginia ham is famous around the world. The town of Smithfield, Virginia, where the company started, calls itself the ham capital of the world.

Larry Santure is the sales manager for Smithfield Foods. He says the explorer Marco Polo brought a basis for curing ham to Italy from China. He says this kind of cured ham turned out to be the prosciutto that we know today. Later, settlers brought the formula for making prosciutto with them to the United States. He says the main reason Smithfield became the center of ham processing was because local Native Americans had methods for producing salt from nearby ocean water.

Virginia Wade manages a store that specializes in ham made in Smithfield. She says the ham is aged at least six months in salt. She says the uncooked hams are similar to ham in China. Before Smithfield Foods can be sold to the Chinese company, the purchase must be approved by the American government and by Smithfield Foods stockholders. There have been concerns in the past about some Chinese companies doing business in the United States. But Gary Hufbauer expects the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to approve this purchase. He is with the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. Mr. Hufbauer believes the Chinese company is buying the world's good opinion of Smithfield Foods, including the quality and safety of its products.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.