New funding for agriculture, forestry export promotion efforts

virginiaVirginia will invest $850,000 over the biennial budget to expand its international trade initiatives promoting Virginia’s agriculture and forestry products around the world.  With these new funds, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) will open two new trade representative offices in Southeast Asia and the Middle East/Northern Africa (MENA) region, as well as create a new Richmond-based position to support the newly enhanced global trade network.  The investment also will promote VDACS-led reverse trade missions to Virginia and promotional events supporting the export of Virginia agricultural and forestry products.

“With 95 percent of world consumers living outside of the United States, our administration is committed to promoting Virginia’s agriculture and forestry products on the international stage and ensuring that we see more Made-in-Virginia products exported in the global economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “As we build the new Virginia economy, it is imperative that we provide VDACS with the resources to facilitate trade deals for our agribusinesses and forestry operations, and I thank the General Assembly for working with our administration on this investment. The expansion of VDACS International Marketing assets is a big step in our work to grow Virginia’s agriculture and forestry businesses and introduce products in new markets across the world.”

Over the last five years, the Virginia global trade network for agriculture and forestry products grew exponentially. With international trade representatives in key markets around the world, Virginia has a presence with both established trading partners, as well as developing markets with high growth potential. By opening new trade representative offices in Southeast Asia (Singapore) and MENA (Dubai, United Arab Emirates), Virginia producers now will be able to access two of the fastest growing markets in the world.

“VDACS does an outstanding job facilitating dialogue between foreign buyers and Virginia sellers and making sure our exporters have every opportunity to sell their products,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. “Since 2010, agricultural and forestry exports from Virginia are up by more than 40 percent, some of that growth driven directly by connections made by VDACS.  I look forward to the expanded international team furthering this reputation, creating more opportunities for our producers, and moving us one step closer to the Governor’s goal of making Virginia the East Coast capital for agriculture and forestry exports.”

In addition to having one employee based in Hong Kong, the VDACS Office of International Marketing currently has representative offices providing services to Virginia farms, agribusinesses, and forestry products companies in Canada, Latin America, Europe, India, and China. These representatives are on contract with VDACS and provide a range of specialized market development services to VDACS clients, such as identifying sales partners, assisting at trade shows, providing tariff and regulatory analysis, and identifying potential investors into Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries. Successes from the international representatives have included:

  • A 131 percent increase in Virginia agriculture and forestry exports to China since hiring a representative in this established, but growing, market;
  • The opening of the Indian market for Virginia apples, with India becoming the largest export market for Virginia apples in 2015;
  • New export deals and distributor agreements in Europe for several Virginia wood products companies and in Canada for several Virginia specialty food companies; and
  • An increase of 187 percent in Virginia agriculture and forestry product exports to Latin America since the opening of the trade representative office in Mexico, with a satellite office in Costa Rica.

Katie Frazier, President of the Virginia Agribusiness Council, added, “The growth in agriculture and forestry exports over the past several years is a direct reflection of the hard work of Virginia agribusinesses, state officials, and VDACS marketing staff to build additional international market opportunities for our world-class products. As a result of the Governor and General Assembly’s leadership, and with additional resources to open new agricultural trade offices across the globe and provide resources for producers in the Commonwealth as they enter the international marketplace, we are encouraged that we will continue to see additional growth in our export potential. The Virginia Agribusiness Council applauds this critical investment in our agribusiness international development program.”

“I want to thank Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Haymore, and VDACS for their tremendous support in helping our Virginia forest products companies expand into the ever-changing global marketplace,” commented Susan Jennings, President of the Virginia Forest Products Association. “Their unparalleled service and assistance is vital for our companies to get a foot in the door as they try to navigate potential overseas markets.  The investments announced today will help our small logging operations, family-owned lumber mills, and international pulp, paper and biomass manufactures put their products into new markets and expand Virginia’s reputation as a leader in agriculture and forestry exports.”

Commenting on the new international funds for VDACS, Senator Frank Wagner said, “As a legislator, it’s important to me to know we are getting a return on the investments we make when funding new endeavors by our government agencies, and given the growth we’ve seen in Virginia’s agriculture and forestry exports since opening the VDACS international trade offices, I strongly support making an additional investment in this program.  I look forward to seeing the results of these expanded export promotion efforts and increasing the bottom line for our Virginia farmers, agribusinesses and forestry products companies.”

Delegate Barry Knight added, “With agriculture representing the largest segment of Virginia’s economy, we have to make sure we’re providing opportunities for growth to our farmers and agribusinesses. Promoting international sales is an important way to do that, and requires boots on the ground in emerging markets to represent Virginia agriculture and forestry and to uncover new sales leads. But bringing international buyers here to Virginia to meet with our farmers and wood products companies to see where Virginia products are harvested and made is also critical. I am thrilled that VDACS will be in an even better position to deliver these services with this new funding.”

Agriculture and forestry exports from Virginia totaled $3.19 billion in 2015, the second highest value ever.  Virginia’s top export markets, along with the values shipped rounded to the nearest million dollars, include: China, $694 million; Canada, $291 million; Switzerland, $204 million; Mexico, $179 million; and Japan, $175 million. Top agriculture and forestry product exports in 2015 include: soybeans; pork; lumber and logs; soybean meal; and leaf tobacco.


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