For Georgia exports, 2012 was a record year across the board with $35.9 billion worth of products leaving the state, a 14 percent increase from a decade ago.

Georgia agribusiness exports totaled $3.3 billion in 2012, or a 26 percent increase just from 2011. In the last decade, though, Georgia’s ag exports have increased more than 143 percent, said Shehzin Jafar, international trader manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

At this time, it is estimated that the production on one out of every three agricultural acres grown in Georgia goes to exports markets.

Panama connection

The key things Georgia’s global traders want, including those related to agriculture at the conference, is the Port of Savannah to get deeper, literally, deeper. At this time, it is the shallowest depth-wise of any major port in the world.

It has 42 feet of draft for ships with a tide flux of seven or so feet. This threatens Savannah’s future growth in the world trade business, including those that trade ag products, said John Petrino with the Georgia Ports Authority.

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project looks to take care of this depth problem and deepen the port there to 48 feet. Why? To accommodate the larger cargo-vessels that will soon start passing through the Panama Canal, which is being expanded now to accommodate larger ships by 2015.

Larger ships can carry more with less overhead. Simple. But they need deep-water terminals to deliver to and load products from. After more than a decade of working to secure state and federal funding to do this in Savannah, in the next few months things should be in line, if federal funding can pass Congress, to get the actual digging done.

The Garden City Terminal in Savannah has berthing space for nine cargo-container vessels at once, or right now the largest continuing berthing space for any port in North America.

Most terminals have space for two or three such vessels at a time. Savannah boasts the fourth largest port value wise in the country and it is not too far behind the leading ports in New York and New Jersey.

Savannah is the country’s leading exporter of agricultural goods, including poultry, cotton, timber and paper products.

brad.haire@penton.com