More of Alabama’s farm and forestry products are making their way overseas with the help of an excellent transportation system and favorable foreign trade agreements.
Exports of the state’s agriculture and forestry products totaled more than $2 billion in 2010 and are projected to keep increasing in the future, according to farm and trade experts.
Export products leaving the Port of Mobile include Alabama-raised poultry, cotton, soybeans and peanuts as well as forestry products which includes lumber and other supplies. Much of the lumber products are destined for the Caribbean region.
“The potential growth for Alabama agriculture due to foreign trade is tremendous,” says Brett Hall, deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries. “The nations of the world are increasingly seeing Alabama as a good, reliable trade partner, and this can only help us further in the future.”
Increased Meat Consumption Worldwide
Hall says one major reason for this export explosion is the growing affluence of countries such China and India, where consumption of poultry and beef is on the increase. Alabama is also benefiting from recent trade agreements that have been made between the U.S. and the nations of South Korea, Columbia and Panama. These trade pacts are expected to enhance the appeal of Alabama farm products in the future.
Poultry, the leading agriculture product in the state, is shipped frozen all over the world. Export of Alabama poultry totaled $423.7 million in 2010. Alabama cotton exports have also risen sharply as prices have increased to record levels. Cotton is shipped to many Caribbean countries, and catfish is another fast-growing export.
Port of Mobile Plays Major Role
Alabama benefits from excellent highway and rail systems and a first-class port in Mobile, which has expanded and improved its warehouse and container terminal facilities and rail infrastructure to handle increased traffic in the future.
The Port of Mobile, the 13th largest port in terms of tonnage in the U.S., is a huge plus for the shipment of Alabama’s products and is also a major distribution point for grain from the Midwest as well as farm products from the rest of the Southeast. The leading commodities leaving the port are coal and steel, followed by forest products and frozen poultry.
“Agriculture is extremely important to the Port of Mobile,” says James Lyons, director and chief executive officer of the Alabama State Port Authority. “The Port of Mobile was originally built with Alabama agriculture in mind.”
Lyons says the port is well-suited for the shipment of Alabama agricultural products with two dockside freezers and an additional 600,000 square feet of warehouse space.
Cattle Producers Benefit from Trade Boost
While beef is not a direct export from Alabama, the state’s cow and calf farms are indirect beneficiaries of a growing overseas beef market as well, according to Billy Powell, executive vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Alabama’s cattle producers sell cattle and calves to producers in other states, such as Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, where they are fed and further fattened for market.
“The bright light for cow-calf producers in Alabama is the export market.” says Powell, who added that his organization has been a big proponent of the recent trade agreements.
“I think with emergence of other industries in our state, such as automotive, that many people forget that agriculture plays a major role in our economy,” says Leigha Cauthen, executive director of the Alabama Agribusiness Council. “Our growth in agriculture exports only serves to underscore that importance.”
Leading Agriculture & Forest Product Exports
- Lumber Products
- Wheat and products