Norfolk – The Commonwealth exported a record $2.35 billion worth of agricultural products in 2011, surpassing the mark set in 2010 by more than 6 percent and setting a new mark for the value of agricultural exports, said Gov. Bob McDonnell at the Governor's Conference on Agricultural Trade held March 13-14 in Richmond.
"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 by a number of factors, including its quality producers and agribusinesses and a diversified portfolio of products and export markets, the governor said. 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; China, holds the no. 2 position and saw its exports grow to $304 million from $194 million in 2010 largely on new soybean shipments; Canada is now the third largest export customer with $220 million; Canada was Virginia's top export market in 2010.
In 2010, the governor implemented a strategic plan to grow the state's agricultural and forest product exports. The strategy focuses 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.
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 the state Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services to focus on new export opportunities in Eastern Europe, North Africa and Central America.
Above: In his opening remarks Tuesday, Gov. McDonnell announced that the total value of Virginia's agricultural exports exceeded $2 billion.