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Fresh from Florida Flexes Its Muscles Abroad: Florida Agriculture Sales Increase Globally

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Perhaps you’ve noticed a push in Florida (or elsewhere in the U.S.) to buy Florida-grown produce and other food items. After all, Florida supplies much of the produce consumed in the winter in the East, and just about everyone knows of the Sunshine State’s status as an international citrus powerhouse.

Peppers seen at a farmers market in Plant City.

Peppers seen at a farmers market in Plant City.

It turns out, Florida-grown ag has also found a large market abroad—and that market is indeed active, if the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are any indication.

Florida exports in 2014 increased 0.9% to $4.2 billion, a record amount, according to the department’s just-released “2015 International Report.” This is the third year in a row that exports have exceeded $4 billion.

Growth in an international market can help combat any diminishing demand of certain items in the U.S., says Dan Sleep, chief, Bureau of Strategic Development, Division of Marketing and Development, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Here are more fascinating facts regarding Florida ag’s power abroad in 2014.

1. Although Florida products were exported to 159 countries and territories, 10 countries accounted for 58.3% of the exports. Any guesses on the top five, eh? (That “eh” was a hint.) Yes, Canada was number one by far, with 22.1% of Florida’s exports going to our neighbor up north. In fact, Canada snaps up a large number of vegetable exports like celery and cucumbers as well as popular Florida fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and watermelons. Canada’s residents even give a big thumbs up to Florida’s orange juice, live trees and plants, live animals, and edible fish.

Kale as seen at the Primo Garden at Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando.

Kale as seen at the Primo Garden at Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando.

2. Following Canada, the other top markets for Florida ag products are the Bahamas, the Netherlands, Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

Growth in Central America and the Caribbean stems from sales that began in those regions in 2004 as well as the Central American Free Trade Agreement, says Sleep. “Of course, our producers do an extremely good job as well, so we’re just a small part of the mix of success in the entire region,” he says. Even cruises to the Caribbean can affect sales numbers, positively Sleep explains.

3. Number six on the list of the top 10 countries for ag exports was Colombia, which apparently represents Florida’s fastest growing market in South America. “Since 2004, Florida exports to Colombia have grown at an average annual rate of 24.5%, and since 2010 have more than tripled,” according to the report. Muy bien.

4. Not to leave other South American allies out, other countries with higher annual growth rates since 2010 for Florida products include Paraguay, Peru, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile. In fact, growth in Latin America overall for Florida exports has risen nearly 300% by 2004, according to the report.

5. In addition to Colombia, the other fastest growing markets for Florida since 2010 from around the globe have been South Korea, Mexico, Hong Kong, and United Arab Emirates.

IMG_27846. Take a stab at guessing Florida’s fastest growing export commodity in 2013 to 2014. The answer: Bird eggs, which experienced a 215% increase in that time period, followed by purebred breeding cattle with a 72.3% increase. As strange as that sounds, Sleep suspects that bird eggs refers specifically to chicken eggs.

And while the growth in exportation of purebred breeding cattle may also sound odd, it becomes a little clearer after reading this article on a Bradenton-based cattle exporter.

7. The top export commodity categories for Florida are meats, prepared foods, prepared fruits and vegetables, fruits and nuts, and beverages.

Florida's blueberry season is in April and May.

Florida’s blueberry season is in April and May.

8. Although Florida’s exports have reached record numbers, there was actually a slight decline in sales of prepared fruits and vegetables, which includes orange and grapefruit juice; fresh fruits and nuts, and edible vegetables. Some factors affecting declines include decreases in prices offered to growers, declines in areas planted, and even strengthening of the U.S. dollar, which can dampen the demand for U.S. products, according to the report.

9. Florida ag’s international upswing reflects an overall trend toward growth in the U.S. market, which had exports totaling $155.2 billion in 2014, a 5.8% increase over 2013. “The U.S. is among the world leaders in production of oil seeds, such as soybeans; cereals such as wheat and corn along with meats and fruits,” according to the report. “Other leading exports include meats, fruits and nuts, and residues and wastes from the food industries.”

Canada is the leading source for U.S. ag exports (probably no surprise there), followed by the growing market in China and an always reliable market in Mexico.

“As the dollar strengthens our exports are less competitive and sell just a bit less robustly, so we expect a downturn,” says Sleep. However, that hasn’t occurred yet, which he thinks may be a sign that Florida will remain in the $4 billion-plus category annually.

  1. IMG_2783The folks behind the “Fresh From Florida” campaign have made special efforts to increase Florida ag visibility in certain countries. This includes Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Panama, and South Korea. (If you’re ever at an Outback Steakhouse in South Korea, look out for the Fresh From Florida red grapefruit cocktail.)
  2. Florida blueberries are a growing crop (pun intended), and our berries are also finding fans worldwide. The state’s fresh blueberries remained second to California in blueberry exports in 2014. Because Florida blueberries are harvested when no other area in the northern hemisphere is producing the fruit, it gives the state exclusive access to domestic and international markets, according to the report. It doesn’t hurt that blueberries are hailed for their healthy properties.

Sleep predicts that Florida will battle Mexico in the next decade or two for blueberry sales in Asia, and he noted that retail programs in Japan and Singapore include Florida blueberries.

Similarly, Florida strawberries were also second only to California for exportation outside of the U.S.

12. The number one exported agriculture commodity in 2014 was…any guesses? Orange juice, which made up 11.1% of the state’s agriculture exports. Plus, “Florida orange juice exports represented over 88% of all orange juice exported from the United States in 2014,” the report says. Still, orange juice is experiencing a declining market overall, including domestic sales.

13. Florida’s leading fruit exports in 2014 were grapefruit, strawberries, watermelons, blueberries, and melons. Tomatoes of all varieties are considered Florida’s most lucrative vegetable export (although if you want to get technical, tomatoes are actually fruit). Fresh peppers, okra, and sweet corn are also popular exported items.

Plant City in Central Florida is the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.

Plant City in Central Florida is the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.

If you like to “nerd out” on statistics, you can also find the report online here.

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