Exports from VA’s largest industry hit record high

Published 10:34 am Saturday, April 22, 2023

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Virginia agriculture and forestry exports reached a record high value of $5.1 billion in 2022, according to recently released data from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

That’s 25% higher than the previous record of $4 billion set in 2021, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced April 10.

Speaking at the Virginia Inland Port facility in Richmond, Youngkin said the export data is a clear indication of the strength of the commonwealth’s first and third largest private industries. Agriculture is the state’s largest private industry, providing over $82 billion to Virginia’s economy, creating over 381,000 jobs and supporting more than $43 billion in value-added impact.

Youngkin plans to tout the quality and value of Virginia agricultural and forestry products when he leads a trade delegation to Taiwan, Japan and Korea later this month. Taiwan is currently one of Virginia’s top five export destinations, which also include Canada, Venezuela, Egypt and China.

Virginia’s top agriculture and forestry commodities exported in 2022 were soybeans, valued at over $2.3 billion; animal products at $960 million; wood products at more than $509 million; tobacco at $215 million; and beer at $145 million.

“These export numbers speak to the high quality and value of Virginia products and the success of our agricultural and forestry producers to establish fruitful international commercial relationships,” noted Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “Virginia producers also benefit from the strategic advantage of the commonwealth’s premier transportation system, which is anchored by the Port of Virginia.”

The port is critical to the state’s international trade success because it represents a network of water, ground and rail transportation that is highly efficient in moving goods to and from ocean-going vessels, noted Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “The port’s network allows the agriculture and forestry sectors to aggregate commodities and goods for export at both the actual port and at its inland facilities, like the Richmond Marine Terminal, and move those shipments directly for export or for loading onto larger vessels,” Banks explained.

“The port is very adept at handling and shipping all sorts of Virginia agriculture products such as apples, meat and poultry, tobacco, alcoholic beverages, wood products and containerized and bulk ag commodities. Virginia is very fortunate to have some of the deepest water access on the East Coast, which allows us to continue serving larger ships that enter the port and keeps us very competitive with other U.S. ports.”

With one of the most diverse agricultural industries in the nation, many Virginia commodities and products rank in the top 10 nationally.

Virginia ranked fourth in the production of tobacco, seventh for apples and turkeys, eighth for peanuts, ninth for pumpkins and 10th for broilers, poultry and eggs, and trout aquaculture in 2021, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Economic Research Service.

According to the same study, Virginia’s top farm commodity in 2021 was broilers with over $625 million in cash receipts, followed by cattle and calves with $372 million, field crops with $319 million, turkeys with over $316 million and dairy products with $298 million.