Ag exports break record
Food exports to China, Hong Kong climb 29 percent
By DAN WHEAT
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington farm and seafood products set a record export pace from Oct. 1 to March 31, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
Washington food exports totaled $1.91 billion in the last quarter of 2010 and were matched in the first quarter of 2011. Each quarter set a record, beating the previous high of $1.89 billion in the third quarter of 2008, the department said.
In a news release, Gov. Chris Gregoire said her trade mission to China and Vietnam earlier this year was a contributing factor. She credited Washington growers for producing high-quality food and said strong exports help the state's economy.
Other factors were large 2010 harvests and the low value of the dollar compared to other currencies, making U.S. commodities more competitively priced in the global marketplace and keeping demand strong.
The agricultural sector of Washington's economy has long depended on international customers for a considerable share of revenues, said Dan Newhouse, the department's director. A strategic location, ideal growing conditions and ingenuity of entrepreneurs are state advantages, he said.
Food export sales to China and Hong Kong were up 29 percent to $247 million in the most recent October-to-March period versus $191 million one year prior.
Washington had record agricultural exports in 2008 but then slumped in 2009 before rebounding in 2010, Janet Leister, manager of the department's International Marketing Program, told Capital Press.
The outlook is good, she said, as food prices rise due to shortages in other regions and countries.
The governor wants the department to help expand farm exports as part of her Washington Export Initiative. The department has set a goal to assist an additional 1,000 food and agriculture companies to make $300 million in export sales by 2015.
The International Marketing Program helps small and medium-sized businesses with new export sales by introducing them to foreign buyers through international trade missions and trade shows, export training and counseling and working to resolve trade barriers and market impediments.
The department will use federal grants this year to house foreign trade missions from China, the Middle East and Taiwan and to fund agricultural trade missions to Mexico, Southeast Asia and India.
The International Marketing Program brings in $3.86 in additional tax revenue for every taxpayer dollar invested, the department said.
From Oct. 1 through March 31, leading exports were:
* Japan: $794 million, wheat, hay, potatoes.
* Canada: $592 million, seafood, apples, vegetables.
* China and Hong Kong: $247 million, Seafood, potatoes, apples.
* Philippines: $211 million, wheat, dairy, potatoes.
*Taiwan: $187 million, wheat, apples, potatoes.
* Mexico: $152 million, apples, dairy, potatoes.
* Indonesia: $150 million, wheat, apples, dairy.
* South Korea: $140 million, hay, potatoes, animal products.