VGPA members attended the Governor's Conference on Agricultural Trade yesterday and today in Richmond. During the conference, Governor Bob McDonnell announced 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 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.
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; 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.
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% 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.
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.
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.