Ag Today, September 12, 2016

Farm Beat: Food and drink drive region’s exports

Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties set records for exports in 2015, mostly food and drink from their farms and processing plants. Merced County came close.

The U.S. Department of Commerce this week reported $1.99 billion in Stanislaus goods headed for foreign lands. Trade was up 10 percent from 2014 and more than triple the level of 2005.

San Joaquin stood at $1.49 billion last year, up from $1.36 billion in 2014. Merced was at $971 million, off the record $1.07 billion the previous year.

The report does not detail what was exported, but it’s clear that the region mainly sent agricultural products. It is a major part of the state’s almond and walnut production, most of it exported. The three counties also produce a lot of wine and dairy products for these markets.

“There’s no surprise that areas in the Central Valley show increased exports,” said Glen Roberts, director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Fresno, in a news release. “The agribusiness is one of our area’s leading exports.”

Food and beverages account for 40 percent of the export volume at the Port of Oakland, much of it delivered there by rail or truck from the valley.

$1.99 billion

Exports from Stanislaus County in 2015

$971 million

Exports from Merced County

$1.49 billion

Exports from San Joaquin County

E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto, the world’s largest wine producer, ships to more than 90 countries. Hilmar Cheese Co., which operates the biggest cheese plant anywhere, sells to more than 50.

The Merced County crop report for 2014 lists the farm products certified for export – huge volumes of tomatoes, sweet potatoes and nuts, joined by niche products such as raspberries and radicchios.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects $133 billion in farm exports for the nation in the 2017 fiscal year, which would be the sixth-highest on record. Much of this is grain, soybeans and meat from the Midwest and Great Plains, but California’s far more diverse farms contribute, too.

The United States runs a trade surplus when it comes to food and drink, but the overall trade deficit is much larger thanks to all the clothes, electronics and other goods imported from other nations.
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