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US: Valley's ag exports keep growing

Cherry and apple growers have the world to thank for their successful harvests last year. Exports from Washington of agricultural commodities were valued at $9.26 billion in 2007, a 38 percent increase from 2006, accor-ding to a news release from the state Department of Agriculture. Several factors, such as a weak dollar and low production of commodities in other parts of the world, helped boost American exports, the release noted.

But in an area where agriculture is the economic mainstay, exports are a necessity, not a bonus. About 30% of cherries and apples grown in the Yakima Valley are exported.
The domestic agricultural market has grown only about 1 percent annually, given the United States nearly static population growth. The potential for the international market is greater, with the emergence of a burgeoning middle class in such countries as India and Mexico.

"Most of the crop industries, without exports, would not be break-even propositions," said Des O'Rourke, a retired Washington State University professor and president of Belrose, Inc., a firm that analyzes global marketing trends. The benefits of exports can also be seen long after the products are shipped. Each dollar's worth of an agricultural commodity that's exported can generate an additional one to three dollars in spending, said Ernst Stromsdorfer, an economist at the Labor Market and Economic Analysis department of state Employment Security.


Publication date: 3/6/2008


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