Earning over $2 billion last year, VA is a major international export player

While Virginia is tapped to host cyclists and media from all over the world in 2015 for the UCI Road World Championship, that doesn’t mean the Commonwealth isn’t already a major player in foreign markets. Last year saw the most revenue from foreign exports with over $2 billion hauled in, and more is planned for this year.

Yesterday, Gov. McDonnell announced that Virginia’s agricultural exports reached an all-time high in 2011. The Commonwealth exported $2.35 billion (yep, that’s a b) last year, a new state record and more than a 6% increase over 2010.

“Agriculture and forestry are vitally important to economic growth in Virginia,” said the Governor in a prepared release. “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.”

The record-setting export revenue is remarkable in-and-of-itself in light of a precarious global economy, but some of the countries that the state partners with are far from uninteresting. Morocco is the largest market for the Commonwealth, with exports totaling more than $360 million. Next comes China at $304 million and Canada at $220 million. Here are Virginia’s remaining top export markets listed by economic value:

  • Switzerland • $149 million
  • Egypt • $139 million
  • Tunisia • $66 million
  • Cuba • $65 million
  • Venezuela • $60 million
  • Indonesia • $57 million
  • Taiwan • $56 million
  • Vietnam • $52 million
  • Saudi Arabia • $52 million
  • Hong Kong • $47 million
  • Jamaica • $47 million
  • Japan • $41 million
  • Ireland • $39 million
  • Turkey • $38 million
  • Brazil • $37 million
  • Mexico • $36 million
  • United Kingdom • $31 million

Quite a list, no? It stretches the breadth of partnership from European democracies (Switzerland) all the way to Mideast monarchies (Saudi Arabia). Some of these countries are particularly notable, as they are often the subject of criticism by some in the US (i.e. Cuba, led by Fidel Castro for nearly 50 years, and Hugo Chavez-led Venezuela).1 However, that hasn’t stopped Virginia from making money by partnering with them.

What does the state ship to these countries? The Commonwealth’s largest industries are agriculture (e.g. cotton, bioenergy, hay and feed, poultry, et al) and forestry. These goods generate a combined annual economic impact of $79 billion to the state. They also provide roughly 500,000 jobs in Virginia, according to a 2008 Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia (pdf).

Yesterday’s announcement comes as the Governor will wrap-up his fourth annual Conference on Agricultural Trade today in Richmond, which has featured presentations from: Ambassador Gabriel Silva Luján of Colombia; Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative; Dick Willey, President of Perdue Agribusiness, among others.

“Virginia has demonstrated a successful track record of using resources to capture new agriculture and forest product export opportunities, said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd P. Haymore. “Over the past year, the Governor’s international market development efforts related to agriculture and forestry yielded more than $100 million in documented new export sales.” It seems the Commonwealth has no desire to slow down. The state will soon ship soybeans to China and Japan, live cattle to Russia, wine to Europe and China, and will build a new seafood business in Europe and Hong Kong.

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  1. the press release referred to them as “unconventional markets.” 

stock photo by ecstaticist

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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