Governor Bob McDonnell announced today as part of his trade and marketing mission to Asia the formal opening of a representative office in mainland China dedicated to increasing agricultural and forestry product exports to China, the world's most populous country. Over the last three years, Virginia has been implementing the governor's initiative to increase agricultural and forestry exports. The initiative includes the utilization of a representative in mainland China, which has one of the world's fastest growing economies, to develop and pursue new sales opportunities for Virginia's agribusiness producers and exporters.
At a ceremony in Shanghai yesterday with U.S. Consulate officials, including Consul General Robert Griffiths, and leading Chinese agricultural importers, distributors and processors, Governor McDonnell commented, "Today's announcement is key for Virginia's agriculture and forestry producers and exporters as we now have a dedicated trade representative working in China, our largest agricultural export customer. Fifteen years ago, Virginia's agricultural exports to China were negligible. Today, business is booming. China purchased almost $640 million in agricultural goods last year from the Commonwealth, more than doubling the amount from 2011. I've seen firsthand during my two trade missions to China that the country holds huge growth potential for future export business from Virginia. We intend to capitalize fully on those opportunities. More exports to China equals more good jobs in Virginia."
Governor McDonnell added, "With more than $2.6 billion in total agricultural exports last year, Virginia's rural communities benefit from the jobs and revenues generated by export sales. One of my top economic development priorities is the development of new export sales, which translate into farm revenue and employment opportunities from our farms, to processing facilities, to trucking and transportation providers, to our world-class ports."
With this portion of the governor's international agricultural trade initiative implemented, Virginia now has the only dedicated agricultural trade office in Shanghai, China's economic and commercial capital. The Commonwealth joins North Carolina as the only other state with a dedicated agricultural trade office in China. North Carolina has an office in Beijing.
"The total value of Virginia's agricultural exports reached an all-time high last year, driven largely by new exports that Virginia has facilitated to China over the last three years under the governor's agricultural trade initiative," said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. "Opening this office will greatly enhance our efforts to develop new trade opportunities with China. In fact, we expect that this year's agribusiness exports to China will exceed last year's record high as we are able to respond to market trends and actively recruit new customers for Virginia's high quality products."
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has hired Annie Kang to represent Virginia's agricultural and forestry interests in mainland China. Kang is the founder and president of Shanghai Rui Nian Investment Management Company, a Shanghai-based firm. She has more than 15 years experience working in the shipping and logistics business. Her company has extensive experience working with major agricultural commodities.
Kang, who began representing Virginia's agricultural and forestry interests shortly after funding was approved, is tasked with facilitating dialogue between Virginia exporters and importers in China, which has a large customer base and a rapidly growing economy. Virginia also is in position to become a market leader in China by taking advantage of significant new opportunities that arise from improved shipping channels between Virginia and China when the Panama Canal expansion project is completed in early 2015.
In 2010, Governor McDonnell implemented a strategic plan to grow the state's agricultural and forest product exports. Working in close partnership with Virginia's producers, agribusinesses, and exporters, Secretary Haymore and VDACS Marketing and Development staff focus on retaining strong market presence in mature and established markets like Canada and Japan, pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets such as China, India and Mexico, and developing business in unconventional markets, such as Cuba and Venezuela. This team also works with state government partners, including the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, the Virginia Port Authority, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, to find more export opportunities.
To supplement the strategic effort, the governor secured new international marketing funds from the General Assembly over the course of his administration for VDACS to open agricultural trade offices in India, China, Latin America, and Europe, all regions that contain some of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. Later this year, Virginia will have an agricultural trade representative in Canada. VDACS has had a trade office in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.
Since taking office in 2010, Governor McDonnell has led overseas trade missions to Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Japan, China, South Korea, Israel, and India. These missions and the work of VDACS' new international marketing staff with Virginia's private sector exporters have resulted in more than $500 million in new agricultural exports from Virginia so far. Overall agricultural exports from Virginia reached just over $2.61 billion in 2012, an all-time high.
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.