WASHINGTON – Marylanders are selling hardwood lumbers to Australia, hot sauces to England and chicken parts to Asia in an agricultural export business that is booming.
“People in other countries do like American brands,” said Marilyn Bassford, Maryland Department of Agriculture international marketing specialist.
Last year, Maryland exported about $215 million in agricultural goods to foreign countries, up from about $175 million in fiscal year 1994, federal government figures show.
The biggest reason for the increase was the rise in poultry sales abroad, due to the demand for dark meat and other chicken parts, Bassford said.
Countries in Asia want chicken feet, she said. Also, “the Russian countries … like the darker meat,” as do countries in South America, she said.
Maryland’s poultry exports rose from $57 million in fiscal year 1994 to more than $72 million in 1995, making it the largest export category for the state last year.
The state’s largest agricultural exporter is the poultry company Perdue Farms Inc., based in Salisbury, Bassford said.
Company spokesman Richard Auletta said Perdue’s export business to countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East is a small part of its total business, but it is growing. Auletta declined to say how much the company makes on exports, but he did confirm that exports have been increasing.
Other Maryland companies are also exporting.
Global Hardwoods Inc., based in Oakland, has been exporting hardwood lumber and raw materials for furniture and flooring for a year and a half, said Mark Lipschitz, vice president of international sales. The company has been in business since 1994.
He said the exports are a vital part of the company’s business, making up 80 percent of sales.
The company ships red and white oaks, yellow poplar, hard and soft maples and American cherry to countries in Europe and Asia, as well as Australia. Global Hardwoods gets lists of potential customers, such as cabinet and floor makers, from the federal government and trade associations, Lipschitz said.
Southwest Spirit/RGE Inc. of Annapolis exports hot sauces, salsas and dessert salsas to England, Sweden and Japan, said president Cynthia Fowler.
The three-year-old company has been exporting for a year and a half, Fowler said.
The company’s exports account for about 10 percent of its current business, but the company wants to expand its exports to include more countries, Fowler said.
“We’re working on it,” she said.
The Queenstown-based S.E.W. Friel has been exporting canned sweet corn and juice products to 16 countries – including Russia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, South Korea and Lebanon – for about 10 years, said part owner Jim Friel.
Four percent of the company’s total business consists of exports, but the owners want to expand that. “We’re trying to make that grow to 50 percent,” Friel said. He said it would probably take five years to accomplish.
Although the cash values of the agricultural exports from Maryland have been climbing, Maryland’s ranking among the states has remained steady, because the nation’s exports have risen, too.
From fiscal years 1991 to 1995, Maryland was ranked 35th among all 50 states in agricultural exports, according to federal government figures. Total agricultural exports for the United States increased during that same period from about $38 billion to more than $54 billion.
Maryland businesses have been aided by both the state and federal governments.
The state’s Department of Agriculture has been helping agribusinesses develop export networks since 1986 by recruiting them for trade shows in other countries and giving them leads for potential buyers. “I consider myself a matchmaker,” Bassford said.
Next month, state agriculture officials will sponsor a seminar featuring an agricultural trade officer from Latin America to discuss the possibilities of selling Maryland lumber and horticultural products abroad.
Also, the state Agriculture Department is recruiting companies for a food trade show in London Feb. 9-13.
And the Maryland Office of International Business is starting a new program that would allow 10 Maryland companies wanting to export goods to China to receive intensive assistance in developing a market strategy. An identical program is starting for companies wanting to export to Latin America, said Jim Hughes, director of the office.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has helped to increase exports through its Foreign Agricultural Service. This agency promotes farm exports by providing international trade information to U.S. companies and by participating in overseas trade shows and exhibitions. -30-