Governor Bob McDonnell announced today as part of his trade and marketing mission to Asia that Montague Farms, a family-owned producer and exporter of specialty soybeans based in Center Cross, Virginia, reached a new agreement to supply food-grade soybeans to a customer in Japan. The specialty soybeans will be imported by Tokyo-based Sun-Tommy International Company and distributed to food processors in Japan. The soybeans will be used to make natto, a fermented breakfast food that is considered a traditional delicacy in Japan. Governor McDonnell met with executives of Montague Farms, Sun-Tommy, and a food processing company in Tokyo on Wednesday to thank Sun-Tommy for reaching an agreement with Montague and to discuss future export business from Virginia.
Commenting on the new export business, Governor McDonnell said, "New trade deals like this will help us build on our solid trade relationship with Japan and the all-time record $2.6 billion in agricultural exports from Virginia achieved last year. I congratulate Montague on this new sales agreement, which will have a positive impact on the company's operations and employees on the Middle Peninsula and in southeastern Virginia. I'm also pleased that this new export deal will benefit a broad network of family farms that contract with Montague Farms to supply specialty soybeans."
The genesis of the trade deal between Montague and Sun-Tommy has roots in the governor's trade and marketing mission to Asia in 2011, when Mr. Minoru "Tommy" Tominari, President of Sun-Tommy International Company met with Governor McDonnell and other Virginia representatives to discuss future export opportunities. Since that time, Mr. Tominari has worked with Montague Farms and Virginia agricultural trade representatives in Asia and Virginia to develop new sales opportunities for Virginia's food-grade soybeans in Japan. The specific financial terms of this new sale are confidential due to the specialized and highly competitive environment for this unique farm product, but the deal is valued at approximately one million dollars.
"The governor's strategic decision to focus on growing agricultural exports from Virginia continues to yield results for our producers and the overall economy," said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. "Export sales, which now are responsible for about 30 percent of total farm income, continue to grow in importance for our family farms. Beyond that, exports are creating opportunities and supporting jobs in non-agricultural sectors between our farms and ports, such as transportation, storage, and finance, as they generate approximately $1.40 in-state for every $1.00 exported."
The specifications for the soybeans to be exported by Montage Farms to Sun-Tommy International are strict. The soybeans supplied by Montague must meet strict requirements for size, shape, color, moisture content, and several other physical properties. The soybeans also must be certified as not having been genetically modified (non-GMO). Montague Farms contracts with a network of farmers in Virginia and surrounding states to grow and ship specialty soybeans.
"The support that the Commonwealth of Virginia and the McDonnell administration, in particular, has provided to Montague Farms and other agricultural exporters has been excellent" said Tom Taliaferro, Operations Manager for Montague Farms. "From the agricultural research that continues at Virginia Tech developing new and better crop varieties to the on-the-ground support we received during business meetings in Japan and Virginia from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' international marketing staff, we are able to achieve new successes because of the support Virginia provides to agricultural producers."
Montague Farms, which has been shipping to other customers in Japan for more than two decades, has built a successful business based upon specialty soybean exports. The company contracts with other farmers for more than 15,000 acres of production of field crop each year. Growers in Montague's farm network cultivate soybean, corn, wheat, and other grain crops. Montague Farms owns and operates two grain storage and conditioning facilities in Virginia, one in Center Cross and another in Windsor.
Established in 1995, Sun-Tommy International is a trading firm dealing in agricultural products from North America, China, Thailand and Australia. Sun-Tommy provides soybeans to Japanese manufacturers who make various soy-based food products, including natto, tofu, and soy beverages.
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 Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' (VDACS) Marketing and Development staff focus on retaining strong market presence in mature and established markets like Canada, China, and Japan, pursuing new opportunities in emerging markets such as India and Mexico, and developing business in unconventional markets, such as Cuba and Venezuela. This team also works with state government partners, including the Secretariat 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 last three years for VDACS to open agricultural trade offices in India, China, Latin America, and the European Union, all regions that contain some of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. Later this year, Virginia will open an agricultural trade office 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. In 2012, Virginia's agricultural exports reached a record $2.61 billion. Japan is one of Virginia's top twenty agricultural export customers.
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.