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Virginia ag exports reach all-time high

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday  that agricultural exports from Virginia reached an all-time high level in 2011, surpassing the previous record set in 2009.  The governor made the announcement during his keynote remarks at the Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade in Richmond.

The Commonwealth exported a record $2.35 billion in agricultural products in 2011, a more than 6 percent increase from 2010.  The new record also is a more than two percent increase above the 2009 level when Virginia reached its previous record high for agricultural exports.  The growth in agricultural exports comes despite a continued slow economic recovery worldwide.

“Agriculture and forestry are vitally important to economic growth in Virginia,” McDonnell said. “With more than one quarter of farm cash receipts attributable to export sales, continuing to grow Virginia’s agribusiness exports is a priority for my administration.  This is why I have fully integrated agriculture and forestry into my administration’s overall economic development plans and incorporated the two industries into every international trade mission I’ve conducted.  Exports are key factors in keeping our economy moving forward and they support jobs from our farms to our outstanding air, land, and sea ports.”

Virginia’s strong position in the global marketplace is enhanced a number of factors, including its quality producers and agribusinesses and a diversified portfolio of products and export markets.  Top export products in 2011 included soybeans, poultry, wheat, pork, lumber and wood products, corn, animal feed, un-manufactured leaf tobacco, fats and oils, cotton, marine and aquaculture products, fresh vegetables, raw peanuts, hides and skins, processed foods, and beverages, including wine.

Virginia’s top three export markets in 2011 were the same as 2010, albeit in different order.  Morocco is now Virginia’s top agricultural export customer with exports totaling more than $360 million in 2011, up from $180 million and the third spot in 2010.  Morocco is followed by China, which saw its exports grow to $304 million from $194 million in 2010 largely on new soybean shipments.  Canada is now Virginia’s third largest export customer with $220 million; Canada was Virginia’s top export market in 2010.

Virginia’s other top export markets include:  Switzerland, $149 million; Egypt, $139 million; Tunisia, $66 million; Cuba $65 million; Venezuela, $60 million; Indonesia, $57 million; Taiwan, $56 million; Vietnam, $52 million; Saudi Arabia, $52 million; Hong Kong, $47 million; Jamaica, $47 million; Japan, $41 million; Ireland, $39, million; Turkey, $38 million; Brazil, $37 million; Mexico, $36 million; and the United Kingdom, $31 million.

“Virginia has demonstrated a successful track record of using resources to capture new agriculture and forest product export opportunities, said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd P. Haymore.  “Over the past year, the Governor’s international market development efforts related to agriculture and forestry yielded more than $100 million in documented new export sales.  Recent agreements and export deals have included soybean shipments to China and Japan, live cattle exports to Russia, wine sales to Europe and China, and new seafood business in Europe as well as Hong Kong.  We’re hoping to build on this success in 2012 and 2013.”

In 2010, the governor implemented a strategic plan to grow the state’s agricultural and forest product exports.  Working in close partnership with Virginia’s producers and agribusinesses, Secretary Haymore and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) Marketing and Development staff focus on retaining strong market presence in mature and established markets like Canada, China and Japan, while pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets such as Turkey, Mexico, and India.  In addition, the plan also calls for developing business in unconventional markets, such as Cuba and Venezuela.  Secretary Haymore and VDACS also work with state government partners, including the Secretariat of Commerce and Trade, the Virginia Port Authority and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, to find more export opportunities.

To supplement the strategic effort, the Governor secured new international marketing funds with support from the General Assembly last year for VDACS to open agricultural trade offices in India and China, two of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies.  This year, the Governor asked the General Assembly to appropriate funds that will allow VDACS to focus on new export opportunities in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and Central America.

The Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade, previously known as the International Agricultural Trade Conference, is co-hosted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Tech, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.   The conference, now in its fourth year, is designed to explore the challenges and opportunities for expanded exports in the global marketplace.

In addition to Gov. McDonnell, the conference is scheduled to feature presentations from, among others, Ambassador Gabriel Silva Luján of Colombia; Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative; Dick Willey, President of Perdue Agribusiness; David Nelson, Rabobank America’s Global Strategist; and Randy Russell, a Principal at Russell and Barron.

Agriculture and forestry are Virginia’s largest industries, with a combined economic impact of $79 billion annually:  $55 billion from agriculture and $24 billion from forestry.  The industries also provide approximately 500,000 jobs in the Commonwealth according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.

augusta free press
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