Governor Bob McDonnell today announced that following Virginia's year-long efforts, and hosting earlier this month a Chinese technical delegation of plant pest officials, China has agreed to a six-month pilot project which will begin re-opening the Chinese market to Virginia's hardwood and softwood log exporters. While technical details are still being finalized, Virginia logs will be allowed to re-enter China beginning June 1 via certain designated ports and with enhanced pest treatment and testing protocols under the terms of the pilot project.
Speaking to the Chinese pilot export program for Virginia hardwood and softwood logs, Governor McDonnell said, "I'm pleased that our focused efforts with the Chinese government, our federal partners, and Virginia log exporters have finally yielded positive results. China is our second largest agricultural trade partner and the ban was negatively impacting both Virginia's exporters and our valued customers in China. My administration will continue working with all involved parties to see that this pilot program is successful and eventually leads to full open market access."
In April 2011, China banned both hardwood and softwood log exports from Virginia and South Carolina, citing pest interceptions on logs exported from the United States. For the past year, Governor McDonnell, Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Todd Haymore, and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) staff have worked to resolve this trade barrier. During a trade mission to Asia in May 2011, less than one month after the ban's introduction, the Governor and Secretary Haymore met with Chinese commerce and agricultural importation officials in Beijing to discuss possible solutions to the trade block.
At that time, Governor McDonnell extended an invitation to technical experts from China to visit Virginia, in order for them to see first-hand how logs are harvested, inventoried, and undergo treatment or testing to prevent the unintended transport of pest organisms. The McDonnell administration also worked closely with federal agencies involved in trade negotiations with the China, including United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, pushing to keep resolution of the log ban a top priority for federal trade negotiators.
Once a Chinese visit and time line was established, VDACS put together a comprehensive program for the team of officials from China's Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (CIQ) including site visits to highlight the quality, safety and security of log exports from Virginia. Working together with staff from USDA APHIS, the Virginia Port Authority, and members of private industry, the Commonwealth was able to effectively demonstrate the effectiveness of treatment, tracking and inspection protocols currently in place to guard against unwanted pests being transported in log shipments.
"A key portion of the Governor's strategic initiative to increase Virginia agricultural exports is working directly with foreign governments, our federal partners, and the private sector to have trade barriers removed or lowered in markets where our products have no or restricted access," said Secretary Haymore. "The easing of the export ban on our logs by the Chinese is a good example of this strategy in action. However, we must keep working to see the ban removed in full."
Last year, the value of Virginia's log exports into the global marketplace was estimated at nearly $57 million, down $10 million from 2010. Prior to the ban, Virginia was a major East Coast supplier of logs to China, the world's largest log importer.
Virginia's forestry industry is important to the state's economy, contributing more than $24 billion in revenue on an annual basis. Wood product exports are critical to the economic well-being of Virginia's forest products industry. The Commonwealth boasts nearly 16 million acres of forestland and more than 144,000 Virginians employed in forestry, forest products, and related industries.