By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Idaho set another record for agricultural exports last year, as the value of Gem State farm commodities sold to other countries reached $921 million.
That total was a 10.5 percent increase over the record of $834 million set in 2011, which was 22 percent more than the former record set in 2008.
Those totals are based on Census Bureau Data that are broken down for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture by Global Trade Information Services.
A trade expert told Idaho farm leaders recently that he expects those totals to grow substantially because of surging demand around the world, particularly in emerging markets. Sixty-six percent of Idaho's ag exports went to developing countries in 2012.
Matt Tripodi, trade relations manager for Euromonitor International, said the state's ag export total grew 109 percent from 2006 to 2011.
"You're riding a fast horse," he said during the recent Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit. "If you're involved in agriculture, you've just been involved in some of the greatest agricultural export growth in Idaho history."
Tripodi, who helps USDA, all state ag departments and 130 trade organizations understand global export opportunities, expects Idaho's ag exports to double in the next five years due to increasing world demand.
Tripodi said all U.S. states can see phenomenal ag export growth in the coming years if they are at the table. The U.S. has set records for ag exports the past two years and accounted for 15 percent of the $880 billion in global ag product sales in 2011.
"Did you know you're an agricultural juggernaut? Did you know you're the 800-pound gorilla in the room?" he said.
Because of increased population growth in urban areas around the world that don't produce their own food, more demand for a more westernized diet and rising per capita income, the world's ag industry will experience a $1 trillion opportunity in the next decade, he said.
"Behind all this is a train that is not going to stop," he said. "The new global supermarket is open for business and you want shelf space."
The value of every category of the food industry, from baby food, spreads, soups and ready meals to retail, processing, dairy, breads and ice cream is growing by billions of dollars annually, he said.
"It's a very serious game going on now," he said and encouraged producers to stay or get involved in the world market. "Literally, the world is up for grabs."
A period of decline or flattening out can be expected following most export records, but the data shared by Tripodi shows that may not be the case and shows the importance of the state's trade missions and export programs, said Laura Johnson, who heads the ISDA's market development division.
"The future projections show enormous potential for future growth," she said. "It reinforces everything we've been doing."