SMITHFIELD, Va. – Smithfield Foods Inc. and China's Dandong Port Group announced plans to explore business opportunities in the rapidly growing market of northern China, announced Gov. Bob McDonnell. The relationship was formalized by signing the MOU during the governor's recent trade and economic development mission to Asia.

Located in the Liaoning Province, Dandong owns and operates major port and infrastructure assets throughout northern China, and Smithfield is the world's largest pork processor and producer. Both companies will examine ways to grow the business alliance through exchange of information and market studies aimed at maximizing the assets of both companies.

China is the world's largest consumer of pork, and the need for high-quality imported product is increasing. China imported more than $42 million worth of US pork during the first quarter of 2011.

"I'm pleased that my administration's discussions with Dandong throughout this year ultimately led to Dandong and Smithfield formalizing this MOU during our recent marketing mission to Asia," McDonnell said. "This strategic partnership will serve both companies in the future: Smithfield gains an important strategic ally in a rapidly developing region of China, and Dandong will serve as the regional hub for supplying the needs of this region as well as other countries in northeast Asia.

“As we work to market Virginia around the world, it is our goal that more deals like this one will be reached, leading to greater exports of high-quality Virginia products to growing markets," he added.

"On behalf of Smithfield, I want to thank Gov. McDonnell and his team for promoting Virginia agriculture during their recent trade mission to Asia and in previous international marketing missions," said Joseph Luter IV, executive vice president of Smithfield Foods. "By making increased agricultural exports a priority of his economic development agenda, Gov. McDonnell is expanding opportunities for the state's top industry."

An MOU describes an agreement between two or more parties that sets in motion future business between the parties. The MOU executed on the governor's recent trade mission represents a commitment from the parties to explore opportunities for partnership in trade with the intent of generating mutual, new and improved business.

Overall agricultural exports from Virginia in 2010 reached $2.24 billion, the second-highest total in history. China was the second-largest export market for Virginia's agricultural products, with shipments valued at almost $195 million. A significant portion of McDonnell's trade and economic development mission to Asia was aimed at growing Virginia's agricultural and forestry exports to China, Japan, and South Korea.