Agri Leader

Sizeable opportunities exist for Florida exports

Lately, the big news is buying local. More and more consumers are looking for local goods when making purchases, and local is a growing segment. However, in Florida, our goods aren’t just sold to local markets.

In fact, exports are a big business as well. Today, 170 countries and territories find themselves as trading partners with Florida. Moreover, in 2013, the total amount of agricultural exports was $4,116,162,451, up 1.9 percent from 2012.

“From our number one trading partner, Canada, with $963 million accounting for nearly 25 percent of our overall exports, to the fastest growing market, South Korea, opportunities abound for Florida agricultural producers,” said Dan Sleep, supervisor/senior analyst, Division of Marketing and Development, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

Since 2011, Florida agricultural exports have grown by an impressive $937 million, attaining $4.12 billion at the close of 2013. “Our expansion helped add nearly 25,000 badly needed jobs to the Florida economy and $88 million in new indirect tax revenues as well,” said Sleep who added that the total economic impact of exports per year is approximately $13 billion.

Florida exports are in high demand for a number of reasons. “Excellent quality, superior handling procedures, name and brand recognition, trade agreements and marketing promotions, each play a role in assisting our export position,” said Sleep, who explained that remarkable strength has been demonstrated during the last decade, and the future looks bright for exports.

One opportunity for export expansion is due to the upcoming Panama Canal enlargement, planned for 2015. “Both the enlargement, along with our own port modifications, will help Florida significantly enhance our position as an international trading partner,” said Sleep.

What also makes a difference is the Free Trade Agreements (FTA). “They can have a significant positive impact on international sales in a fairly short period of time,” added Sleep.

One in particular is The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The CAFTA-DR countries include Costa Rica, El Salvador Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, Florida’s fourth leading export destination.

“Since the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement was signed in 2004, Florida’s exports to the member countries have grown at 15 percent per year. Exports to CAFTA-DR countries totaled over $457 million in 2013,”said Bob Gitzen, marketing specialist, FDACS.

According to an annual report by FDACS, Florida is ranked eighth in agricultural exports among the states. The top destinations, accounting for 55.9 percent of total exports, include: Canada, Netherlands, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and Jamaica, while the fastest growing markets include: South Korea, Germany, Chile, Brazil and Hong Kong.

Furthermore, in 2013, Florida exported $664.6 million in goods to emerging markets. “Emerging markets include some of Florida’s largest, and fastest growing export destinations such as Mexico, Colombia, China and Brazil,” said Sleep who explained that exports to this group of countries grew by 13.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, and have grown at an annual rate of 15.3 percent since 2004. These particular markets were the destination of 16.1 percent of Florida’s agricultural exports in 2013.

Overall, the fastest growing exports (2012-2013), were pure-bred breeding horses (32.2 percent), strawberries (26.7 percent), tomatoes (22.4 percent), peppers (9.8 percent), potatoes (6.6 percent) and snap beans (5.9 percent).

Florida grapefruits also rank high with over 80 percent of all U.S. grapefruit exports (during the peak grapefruit season from January through March). “In 2013, Florida exported $98.63 million in fresh grapefruit, far ahead of second ranked California with $24.26 million,” added Sleep. Fresh tomatoes and blueberries also have impressive export records.

While it’s hard to predict the future of exports, we are definitely geared up for growth. “There is rarely a perfectly straight line of growth in any product’s sales chart, however, Florida’s looks pretty spectacular from where we’re standing and our commitment to the future is unwavering,” said Sleep.