Last year was a record year for Virginia with agricultural exports of $2.2 billion for the 12 month period.

Todd P. Haymore, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), reports that Virginia's agricultural exports have continued to do very well in 2009 and have faired better than most other states. For January — May 2009, total U.S. agricultural exports dropped nearly 21 percent, but Virginia's agricultural exports are only 5 percent below 2008’s record figures for the same time period. For the first five months of 2009, exports are up by more than $116,000 over 2007. Virginia’s recent export history shows that the state sent abroad $846 million worth of agricultural products January — May 2007, a billion dollars in products for the same period in 2008, and $963 million in the first five months of 2099.

"We're bucking national export trends and that's a testament to what Virginia has to offer the global marketplace,” Haymore said. “Virginia’s strengths are our growers who are utilizing new technologies and best growing and management practices; our agribusinesses with whom we partner to move products into the global marketplace; our world class inland, air and sea ports; and our strategic Mid-Atlantic location that allows us to move our product into key markets in a very timely and efficient manner."

“Our foremost international marketing strategies at VDACS are to work hard to maintain our strong relationships with our current trading partners, expand those relationships when possible and to continue to grow trading opportunities in new and emerging markets around the world,” said Haymore. “Virginia produces very high quality agricultural products with a sterling worldwide reputation. In an overall positive export picture, we can point to several countries that are especially strong right now.”

Currently Virginia’s top 10 export markets are Switzerland, China, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, Venezuela, Cuba, Malaysia, Portugal and Indonesia. VDACS is not focused solely on maintaining market share in current markets, but also works to develop new market opportunities that will keep Virginia’s agriculture-based economy strong and provide for continued export growth in the future. Cuba is a good example of a market that continues to grow in importance as a new market for Virginia agricultural products.

In the first five months of this year, Virginia’s agricultural exports to Cuba were in excess of $40 million, a 131 percent increase over the same period last year, which was an all time high. During these five months, Virginia became the third largest exporting state to Cuba. Virginia’s agricultural exports to Cuba during this period included approximately $360,000 in pork and $188,000 in poultry, two products that represent new business for Virginia exporters in this market. Haymore and senior VDACS marketing staff maintain an on-going dialogue with Cuban officials in Washington regarding Cuba’s purchases from Virginia and continued growth for Virginia agricultural products in that market.

“I am convinced Virginia’s agricultural exports will remain strong because of the quality of product that Virginia produces, VDACS' international marketing strategies, and the diversified portfolio of global export markets," Haymore concluded. “Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Virginia with an economic impact of $55 billion annually, and exports will help it maintain that pre-eminent position in the state’s economy.”