Virginia Agricultural Exports Reach All-Time High in 2012

~Value Exceeds $2.6 Billion; Up Almost 12% Over 2011’s Previous Record~

New International Marketing Initiatives, Investments Facilitating Export Deals, Expanding the Commonwealth’s Global Presence

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that agricultural exports from Virginia reached a new all-time high of $2.61 billion in 2012, shattering the previous record set last year by almost 12 percent.  The Governor’s announcement came during his keynote remarks at the fifth annual Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade in Richmond.  The conference runs through Friday.

The Commonwealth previously reached a record level of agricultural exports in 2011, when more than $2.35 billion in products were shipped into the global marketplace from Virginia ports.  The 2011 figure was a six percent increase from 2010.  Agricultural exports, which also include forestry products, have grown in value by approximately 17 percent since 2010.  The growth in agricultural exports comes despite a continued slow economic recovery worldwide.

Speaking about record setting agricultural exports, Governor McDonnell remarked, “The decision in 2010 to fully integrate agriculture and forestry, Virginia’s two largest industries, into our administration’s economic development and jobs creation strategic planning continues to yield solid results for Virginia’s overall economy and expand our global presence. Agricultural exports, which generate approximately $1.40 in-state for every $1.00 shipped out, have reached all-time highs in two of the past three years, producing more revenue for our producers and everyone along the business chain from farms to our ports, and creating more good jobs all across Virginia. With the trade offices we’ve established in key global regions and new ones we’ll open this year, as well as the trade missions we will conduct later this year, I expect to see Virginia agricultural exports continue to grow, and good jobs continue to be created here at home. Our recently passed transportation bill will also help ensure that Virginia continues to have the modern and well-funded road and rail network necessary to get our goods from producers in the Commonwealth to tables all across the world in the decades ahead.”

Virginia’s strong position in the global marketplace is enhanced by a number of factors, including: quality producers, agribusinesses, and exporters; an excellent sea, air, and land port system; and a diversified portfolio of export markets and products.  Top export products in 2012 included:  soybeans; soybean meal; lumber, logs, and wood products; unmanufactured leaf tobacco; soybean oil; wheat, corn, barley and other grains; pork; animal feed; processed foods and beverages, including wine; animal fats and oils; wood pellets; cotton, seafood, and raw peanuts.

Virginia’s top three export markets in 2012 were the same as 2011, albeit in different order.  China, by far, is Virginia’s top agricultural export customer with exports totaling more than $638 million in 2012, up from $304 million and the second spot in 2011.  Agricultural exports to China, largely driven by soybean and grain shipments, have increased by almost 230 percent since 2010 when $194 million of goods were shipped there from Virginia.  Canada holds the second spot with exports totaling more $205 million in 2012.  Morocco, after being Virginia’s top agricultural export destination in 2011, is now third with approximately $139 million in goods purchased.

Virginia’s other top export markets, along with values shipped rounded to the nearest million dollars, include:  Switzerland, $122 million; Turkey, $94 million; Saudi Arabia, $90 million; Indonesia, $82 million; Vietnam, $82 million, Venezuela, $67 million; Cuba $66 million; Mexico, $61 million; Japan, $53 million; Egypt, $52 million; Ireland, $49 million; Taiwan, $43 million; Russia, $42 million; Malaysia, $41 million; Hong Kong, $39 million; Chile, $38 million; Poland, $37 million; Italy, $37 million; Tunisia, $35 million; Jamaica, $34 million; Georgia, $32 million; Germany, $31 million; and India, $28 million.

Some key points from this year’s Virginia agricultural export study:

  • The export commodity showing the largest percentage growth was wood pellets, which saw a more than 800 percent increase from 2011 to 2012.  Exports grew from almost $4 million to approximately $35 million, largely driven on new sales to the European Union.
  • The export value of soybeans more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, from $327 million to $734 million. A significant portion of this growth is attributable to the McDonnell administration’s efforts to find new customers in the global marketplace.
  • The Commonwealth saw key growth in areas where the Governor’s agricultural export initiative focuses resources and attention:  China, India, Mexico and other Latin American countries, and several countries in Europe.
  • Virginia’s agricultural exports to China increased by more than 100 percent from 2011 to 2012.  In fact, approximately 15 percent of Virginia’s agricultural export trade in 2012 was with China.
  • Exports to India grew from $5 million in 2011 to $28 million in 2012.  Most of the growth was associated with new sales of soybean oil and lumber, logs, and wood products.
  • Exports to Mexico grew by more than $20 million, with new business in poultry and pork.
  • Exports to Cuba reached an all-time high of $66 million. Virginia is now the second largest U.S. agricultural exporter to Cuba.
  • Peanut exports grew from about $6.5 million to approximately $17 million, largely based on new trade into the European Union.

“The new all-time record for agricultural exports demonstrates the importance and benefits of the Governor creating a clearly defined strategic plan for the Commonwealth’s two largest industries and allowing them to take advantage of new opportunities,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore.  “In addition to the strategic plan, the relatively small investments in the global marketplace called for by the Governor and supported by the General Assembly are helping to facilitate deals between our agribusinesses and foreign purchasers.  By expanding dramatically our global footprint, Virginia has never been better positioned than we are now to build on these successes and capture new export opportunities in the future as demand grows.”

In 2010, Governor McDonnell implemented a strategic plan to grow the state’s agricultural and forest product exports.  Working in close partnership with Virginia’s producers, agribusinesses, and exporters, 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, pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets such as India and Mexico, and developing business in unconventional markets, such as Cuba and Venezuela.  Secretary Haymore and VDACS staff 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 from the General Assembly over the last three years for VDACS to open agricultural trade offices in India, China, Latin America, and the European Union, all regions that contain some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies.  Later this year, Virginia will open an agricultural trade office in Canada.  VDACS has had a trade office in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.

Since taking office in 2010, Governor McDonnell led overseas trade missions to Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Japan, China, South Korea, Israel, and India.  These missions and the work of VDACS’ new international marketing staff with Virginia’s private sector exporters have resulted in almost $500 million in new agricultural exports from Virginia so far.  Gubernatorial trade missions for 2013, including one to China and Japan in April, are being planned now.

The Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade is co-hosted by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Port Authority, Virginia Tech, and VDACS.  In addition to Governor McDonnell, the conference is scheduled to feature presentations from, among others, Ambassador Mike Moore of New Zealand; Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative; Dr. Charles Steger, President of Virginia Tech; Rodney Oliver, Executive Director, Virginia Port Authority; Mike McClendon, East Coast President, Lineage Logistics; and J.B. Penn, Chief Economist, Deere and Company.  VDACS international marketing staff also will be present to meet with current and prospective exporters.

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.