State ag exports top $3B for first time

Posted September 17, 2009 10:23 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina exported record $3.1 billion worth of agricultural products in 2008, a 51 percent increase over the previous year, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Thursday.

“Agricultural exports are important to North Carolina’s economy,” Troxler said in a statement. “They help boost farm prices and income and support more than 24,000 jobs, both on the farm and in industries such as food processing, storage and transportation.”

The state ranked 13th nationally in the value of agricultural exports during the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

North Carolina's leading export commodities were tobacco, at $573.6 million, and animals and meat , at $553.5 million. The state is the nation’s top tobacco exporter and ranks third in poultry products and fifth in cotton and peanuts sold to other countries.

Peter Thornton, assistant director for international marketing at the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the increase in the value of agricultural exports can be attributed to several factors, including the increased value of farm products the past few years and the emergence of China and other international markets that import food from the U.S.

“As developing countries get richer, the first thing they are going to do is eat better, which offers us more export opportunities,” Thornton said.

North Carolina’s top international customers in fiscal 2008 were Japan, China, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany.