US firm targets next chopsticks customer - HK

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 September, 2011, 12:00am


An American company that broke the mould by exporting chopsticks to the mainland is lining up Hong Kong as its next market.

Jae Lee, a former scrap-metal exporter from Americus in Georgia, began turning out chopsticks for China last year. His company, Georgia Chopsticks, produces two million sets of disposable chopsticks a day with 'Made in the USA' emblazoned on each box sold to the mainland.

'Initially, I had hoped to ship out fresh logs direct to China, but the freight charges were too high,' Lee said. 'So I decided to try shipping out smaller quantities, and that's when I thought about making chopsticks. They were semi-finished products that could then be shipped to China where they'd be polished.'

Lee's workers first shave and cut huge logs into rough chopsticks, which are shipped via Savannah to Dalian , in Liaoning province, where the finishing touches are added. From Dalian they are sold all over the mainland.

'Demand for chopsticks is huge and we are working 24/7 to keep up orders. We hope to export 10 million pairs a day by the end of the year.'

Lee, 43, was born in Seoul and lived there until he finished high school in 1986 when his family moved to Georgia. He said Hong Kong importers wanted his company to provide the finished product, but they did not have the skilled workers.

'Once we develop the right kind of skilled workers in the US, where we can produce the finished product, we will definitely be selling chopsticks to Hong Kong.'

Lee said Georgia had a plentiful supply of raw materials, such as poplar and sweet gum trees, which were ideal for making chopsticks.