Governor Bob McDonnell today announced a new initiative to increase agricultural and forestry product exports from Virginia to India. The initiative will include utilization of a representative with offices in India to develop and pursue new sales opportunities for Virginia's agribusiness producers and exporters in the world's second most populous country. The Governor is completing a two-week job creation and marketing mission to Israel and India.
At a ceremony with U.S. Ambassador to India Peter Burleigh and leading Indian agricultural importers and processors in New Delhi, Governor McDonnell commented, "Today's announcement is key for Virginia's agriculture and forestry producers and exporters. With more than $2 billion in total agricultural exports each year, Virginia's rural communities benefit from the jobs generated by export sales. One of my top economic development and job creation priorities is the development of new export opportunities, which translates into farm revenue and employment opportunities from field, to processing facilities, to trucking and transportation providers, to our world-class ports."
Governor McDonnell added, "Fifteen years ago, Virginia's agricultural exports to China were negligible. Today, China is Virginia's second leading export customer, purchasing almost $200 million in agricultural goods form the Commonwealth each year. We believe that India could be the 'next' China for Virginia's agriculture and forestry products. With a large customer base and growing economy, we hope to position Virginia as a market leader to take advantage of significant opportunities in India as the market develops."
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has hired Atul Khana to represent Virginia's agricultural and forestry interests in India. Mr. Khana is the founder and president of i2iConsulting, a New Delhi-based company with more than 20 years experience importing and promoting agricultural products and foodstuffs.
Mr. Khana, who is also a specialist in global cold chain logistics, will work with Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore and VDACS Marketing and Development staff to expand Virginia's base of exports to India. In 2010, Virginia's agricultural exports to India were valued at a modest $3.2 million. With a population of more than 1.2 billion and an economy growing at nearly 9 percent per annum, demand for imported agricultural products is expected to grow along with India's economy.
"Although the combined value of Virginia's agricultural exports recently reached an all-time high and continue to grow, developing new customers for our export products will ensure that agriculture and forestry remain Virginia's top industries and help grow our economy in the future," said Secretary Haymore, adding that the top export prospects to India at this time are apples, wood products, soybean oils, and wine.
Funding for the India agricultural export initiative was approved by the General Assembly in 2011 as part of the Governor's economic development and jobs creation initiatives. The General Assembly also funded a Virginia agricultural export office to China, the world's most populous country and second largest importer of Virginia agricultural products. The China office opening will take place at a later date.
Agriculture and forestry are Virginia's largest industries, with a combined economic impact of $79 billion annually: $55 billion from agriculture and $24 billion from forestry. The industries also provide approximately 500,000 jobs in the Commonwealth according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia.