By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- The value of Idaho agricultural exports continued to increase during the first quarter of 2013 despite a reduction in dairy sales, which drove the state's record farm export totals in 2011 and 2012.
Idaho ag exports totaled $238 million during the first quarter of 2013, a 5.3 percent increase over the same period last year. Idaho ag exports reached a record $921 million last year, 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.
While the first-quarter increase was modest compared to the big percentage gains common during the past two years, it was significant considering it is an increase over a record year, said Laura Johnson, who manages the Idaho State Department of Agriculture's market development division.
"With last year being a record year for Idaho ag exports, we see any growth above that as being positive," she said.
While still the state's top ag export category, sales of products listed under the dairy classification declined 14 percent to $51 million during the January-March period.
But that was made up for by large increases in several other categories, including a 25 percent increase in the "miscellaneous grain, seed and fruit" category ($45 million), 18 percent increase in vegetable exports ($43 million) and a 29 percent increase in "milling, malt and starch" products ($22 million).
The decrease in dairy exports during the first quarter could be due solely to the timing of when large milk purchases are made, said Jon Davis, CEO of Davisco Foods, the parent company of Jerome Cheese Co. in Idaho.
"It's just an ebb and flow thing," he said. "Life doesn't happen by quarters."
U.S. dairy exports are "good, not great" and when the year is done, "I think you'll see the numbers at least as good as previous time periods or even a little stronger," Davis said.
The export totals are based on Census Bureau Data that are broken down for ISDA by Global Trade Information Services.
The increase also came despite a reduction in ag exports to Mexico, Canada and Japan, the second, third and fourth main destinations for Idaho farm products.
Four percent declines in the value of ag exports to Mexico and China, as well as a 12 percent decline to Japan, were offset by a 15 percent increase to Canada, the main market for Idaho farm products.
The increase to Canada was driven by a 63 percent increase in the value of oilseed sales.
Idaho ag exports to South Korea increased 36 percent.
The decrease in the value of Idaho ag exports to China was largely a result of a decline in dairy sales to that country, while the decline in ag sales to Mexico was due mostly to a reduction in the amount of wheat sold to that country.