OLYMPIA - While the global economic slowdown is likely to have an impact on Washington's food and agriculture exports, 2008 was a banner year for Washington's exporters. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, food and agriculture exports from Washington ports topped $14.8 billion last year, a 60 percent increase from 2007.

The dramatic increase in exports was a result of strong yields by Washington growers, high prices producers were getting for their commodities, the relatively low value of the dollar that made U.S. products more attractive to international buyers, adverse weather conditions in other parts of the world that drove down global supply, and trade missions opening up new markets.

Among the 50 U.S. states, Washington is the third largest exporter of food and agriculture products. Exports are critical to Washington's farmers and ranchers because about one-third of Washington-grown products are shipped overseas.

"Today's farmers operate in a global marketplace," said Dan Newhouse, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. "Washington farmers continue to benefit from international trade, but we must do more to reduce foreign barriers and promote our products abroad. Expanding trade is a critical component to maintaining and enhancing the profitability of agriculture here at home."

In 2008, the value of food and agricultural products exported from Washington ports included:

Wheat $2.21 billion
Apples, cherries and other fruit $863 million
Fish and seafood $706 million
Processed foods $686 million
Dairy products $414 million
Hay $309 million
Vegetables $266 million
Meat $246 million
Processed meat and fish $240 million

The dollar value of exports to eight of the ten leading destinations increased significantly. The leading destinations for these food and agricultural products (excluding corn and soybeans) were:

Japan $1.74 billion
Canada $1.07 billion
Philippines $521 million
Indonesia $455 million
Korea $310 million
Mexico $284 million
Taiwan $277 million
China $248 million
Thailand $151 million
Hong Kong $145 million

WSDA's International Marketing Program works in partnership with the food and agriculture industry to increase export sales of Washington products. The program provides promotional support, market information, financing and access to U.S. Department of Agriculture market assistance programs. WSDA contract representatives in Japan, Taiwan and China are experts in the export and marketing of food products in those countries. More information is available at agr.wa.gov/Marketing/International.

Trade reps to meet with Washington businesses in March
From March 16 to 20, WSDA's international trade representatives will travel around the state to offer current and potential exporters insight into foreign markets and teach food and agriculture businesses how they can capitalize on the global marketplace. For more information, businesses should contact Leisa Schumaker at 360-902-1926 or lschumaker@agr.wa.gov.

Contact: Jason Kelly, Washington State Department of Agriculture, 360-902-1815