Georgia has export fever, and its agriculture sector is fanning the flames.

More than a 150 trade specialists, logistics and global financing experts, trade delegates and commodity representatives met in Savannah Sept. 25 to champion ag exports, particularly those coming from Georgia and the Southeast, to the world, a growing planet with an increased appetite for better, higher protein diets.

“The last five years have been the strongest period for agriculture exports in the history of the United States,” said Christian Foster, deputy administrator for the USDA Office of Trade and Promotions. “Projections for U.S. exports this year will be $140 billion. It was only $56 billion 10 years ago.”

 

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Also, the U.S. has a trade balance surplus when it comes to ag exports, meaning it will export $35 billion more in ag products than it will import ag products in 2013, Foster said.

In the near future, the world will have 1 billion ‘middle-class’ citizens, or those with enough income to trade up to better, higher-quality food. More than 850 million of those middle-class bellies will be outside the U.S.

A little perspective: Three years ago, the U.S. accounted for 19 percent of the world economy. It is now down to better than 17 percent of that global economy. In the immediate years that followed World War II, the U.S. accounted for more than 50 percent of the world economic output, taking up the slack as Europe and the world rebuilt following the war, said Todd Gerken, director of the U.S. Commercial Services at the South Georgia U.S. Export Assistance Center.

China’s the big bear in the world now with its buying power, but it isn’t the only one, Gerken said. Africa’s growing middle class is outpacing it. Almost half of the top 20 fastest-growing countries in the world are in Africa or Latin America.

For example, Sierra Leone’s gross domestic product rate has ticked at a 21 percent growth in recent years. In comparison, the U.S. GDP in recent years does well to hit 1.5 percent to 2 percent growth. The EU is predicted to grow less than 1 percent in 2013.

“It’s obvious the rest of the world is getting an increasing share of the buying power, and if you want to grow your business and stay in the game, you’re probably going to have to think about exports,” Gerken said.