Over the last several months, Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ (VDACS) international marketing staff and Virginia’s agricultural trade representative in Europe, Andrew Brown and Associates (ABA), based in Surry just outside of London, worked with several Virginia specialty food producers and an animal feed additive exporter to achieve new international sales from the Commonwealth. While sales figures are confidential, the trade deals represent new revenue streams for the exporting companies into the growing United Kingdom and European markets.
Speaking about the new exports as he finishes the United Kingdom portion of an eight-day trade and marketing mission that also included several stops in China, Governor McAuliffe said, “One of my top job economic development priorities is to work with Virginia businesses, foreign purchasers, and government leaders from around the world to find new trade opportunities that grow Virginia’s economy. Finding new international sales provides more revenue and job creating opportunities for our producers and agribusinesses. The new exports also move us closer to my goal of making Virginia the East Coast capital for agricultural and forestry product exports.”
Over the four-day mission and in addition to meetings conducted by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) and Virginia Tourism Corporation, Governor McAuliffe, along with First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, and VDACS and ABA staff, met with European agribusinesses and various specialty food and beverage importers to encourage more investment in Virginia and promote Virginia agricultural products. Meetings focused on thanking businesses and importers for recently completed deals and discussing ways to expand those relationships. Other meetings started dialogue on potential new export deals.
“Virginia’s work in global agricultural and forestry product trade development and expansion has not been focused singularly on large-scale commodity exports, such as soybeans, corn, and other small grains,” said Secretary Haymore. “Export sales are also important to smaller agribusinesses and family-owned operations, which are the backbone of Virginia’s economy and create the majority of jobs in the Commonwealth. Assisting those smaller-scale businesses has been a priority for the Governor and our international marketing and development teams in both Virginia and Europe.”
Micron Bio-Systems is a smaller-scale agribusiness that has benefited from Virginia’s marketing push in Europe. The Buena Vista-based company produces feed additives for dairy cattle, poultry, swine, and other animal feed. The company focuses on additives, which preserve feed and diminish mold problems, benefiting the health of livestock and poultry. Working with Micron Bio-Systems, Virginia’s European trade representatives helped secure a trade deal with Bio4Globe, a major farm supplies distributor covering France, Spain, and Portugal.
Following a VDACS-organized reverse trade mission promoting speciality food products, FERIDIES, a Courtland-based producer of award-winning, extra large gourmet Virginia peanuts and peanut products, reached a deal with Cotswold Fayre to have a variety of products featured in the company’s 2014 Christmas catalogue. Cotswold Fayre is a fine foods wholesaler supplying independent and high-end retailers in the United Kingdom with quality food and drink products sources from across the globe. Cotswold Fayre works in close partnership with its suppliers, most of whom are small producers not currently distributing through major United Kingdom supermarkets.
Virginia’s European trade representatives worked with Dr. Lucy’s, a Norfolk-based gluten- and allergen-free cookie manufacturer, to secure a new trade relationship with natural food distributor Tree of Life. The two companies reached an agreement regarding exclusive distribution in the United Kingdom. The deal marks Tree of Life’s first-ever food product import from North America. Dr. Lucy’s also received assistance from VEDP’s Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) program, which helped the company research new markets to focus on and provided introductions to international consumer products experts, banks, and legal consultants.
Tree of Life was established almost 20 years ago originally as Natures Store. The company is now the largest wholesaler in the United Kingdom’s ‘Nutrition & Healthy Lifestyle’ sector. Tree of Life distributes over 14,000 premium products including organic foods, general health food products, vitamins, minerals, sports nutrition supplements, body care, and household products.
In additional to the new feed and specialty food export deals, Governor McAuliffe continued efforts related to the ongoing growth of Virginia’s wood fuel pellet exports to the United Kingdom. Over the past year, Virginia has worked with Virginia exporters and British policy makers and electric utilities promoting Virginia’s sustainably-managed wood resources as a renewable fuel for power plants that previously utilized coal as an energy source. In the first five months of 2014, Virginia’s wood pellet exports to the United Kingdom reached $22 million, an increase of 275% from the same period last year. Wood pellets have been one of Virginia’s fastest growing agricultural commodity exports, on a percentage basis, over the last two years.
During meetings in London, Governor McAuliffe, Secretary Haymore, and VDACS and ABA staff met with representatives of electric utilities purchasing Virginia wood pellets as well as smaller importers in hopes of growing existing export deals and establishing new trade relationships. They also met with British Members of Parliament and other senior government leaders who are responsible for establishing standards for renewable fuels utilized in power generation.
Agricultural and forestry exports from Virginia reached a record high of $2.85 billion in 2013. europe is a significant market for Virginia’s agriculture and forestry products. Last year, more than $320 million worth of product were exported to the United Kingdom and other European Union countries. That figure is expected to rise in 2014.
According to a 2013 economic impact study conducted by Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, generating more than $52 billion per annum. The industry also provides more than 310,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.