N.C. ag exports top $3 billion for first time

by | Sep 17, 2009

North Carolina exported $3.1 billion worth of agricultural products in 2008, a 51 percent increase over the previous year. It is the first time N.C. ag exports have topped the $3 billion mark.

Agricultural exports are important to North Carolina’s economy because they help boost farm prices and income and support more than 24,000 jobs both on and off the farm.

North Carolina ranked 13th among all states in ag export values during the federal fiscal year covering Oct. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2008, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. North Carolina 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 N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, attributes the higher ag export values to a couple of factors. First, the value of farm products has been higher in recent years. Second, emerging economies in China and other countries that import food from the United States have expanded opportunities for N.C. exports.

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

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

N.C.’s leading export commodities:

  • Tobacco – $573.6 million
  • Animals and meat – $553.5 million (poultry alone accounts for $480.9 million)
  • Cotton and linters – $275.5 million
  • Peanuts – $23.5 million