Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Agricultural Exports to Asia Prove Boon to West Coast US Port

But Are the Days of Wine and Roses About to End?
Shipping News Feature
US – A boom in demand from markets in Asia has seen agricultural export tonnage at the Port of Oakland grow by 233% in the last five years, and produce of this type now accounts for 53% of the Ports total export freight tonnage. In 2016 Oakland shipped 3.9 million metric tonnes whereas in comparison 2012 saw the figure at a ‘mere’ 1.2 million tonnes.

According to the Port’s Business Development Manager, Beth Frisher, the increase is attributable to Asia's growing middle class which is creating a demand for high-quality US farm products, and the port’s location, being both the last port-of-call for vessels heading to Asia, and the closest to the California farms which grow 70% of the produce exported. This proximity ensures that produce is shipped from farm to market in the quickest possible time, thereby retaining as much freshness as possible.

Fruits and nuts are the leading agricultural commodity shipped from Oakland, followed by meats, beverages and spirits. The latter category includes California wines, with Japan, China and South Korea the top three trading partners for Oakland’s agricultural exporters.

The Port is predicting that 2017 could be another year of export growth as heavy rains this winter have eased five years of drought in California and forecasts are that this should result in even more bountiful harvests next fall. However with the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal now dead in the water, and bombastic rhetoric coming out of both Washington and Beijing, the shadow of a potential trade war means dark clouds on the horizon. The US agricultural community will be watching anxiously, knowing that any serious disagreement over the issue might mean that West Coast growers will have to look elsewhere for markets to maintain their current success.

Photo: California almonds are particularly popular with overseas buyers.