The University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences held one of its regional 2013 Ag Forecast meetings at the Rome-Floyd E.C.O. River Education Center on Monday, drawing producers from Hiram to Trenton into the center in Ridge Ferry Park.
“Overall, state exports are up slightly over last year. The past two years were record years for us,” said Kathe Falls, director of the Department of Economic Development International Trade Team.
Falls told the group that one of the primary reasons Georgia is working to beef up its agricultural export programs is that companies involved in the export market create jobs.
“For every job created in making a product, another job is created in getting the product to market,” said Falls. “Companies who sell overseas also grow about 20 percent faster than those that sell domestically.”
Falls said Georgia is a leading exporter in a number of commodities ranging from poultry to pecans and wood pulp. Thirty-nine percent of the exports out of the port of Savannah are agricultural commodities.
Lest anyone think the export market is for large companies only, Falls said more than half the companies her office works with have fewer than 20 employees.
Maggie O’Quinn, the Caribbean and South America account manager for Certified Angus Beef LLC, told the group she is bullish about beef exports and that one of the primary reasons beef prices have rebounded in recent years is the export market.
O’Quinn said the beef cow industry is experiencing record tight supplies and predicted that 2013 will also be down.
“My No. 1 message to you today, for all of you that are producing beef, is please start retaining those females. Please start sending us more product,” O’Quinn said. “Our export partners are ready, ready, ready for the product.”
O’Quinn, a Georgia native, said she expects to export 11 percent of the total beef production, and that number should grow to 20 percent over the next five years.
One of the factors that should enhance the export market, she said, is the re-opening of the Japanese market to animals over 30 months of age.
“Japan is about to grant full access again,” O’Quinn said. “It’s going to be another reason why you guys are going to sit in the sweet spot, or hot seat, because of that market re-opening.”
O’Quinn produced statistics showing U.S. consumption of red meat, poultry and pork has declined about 11 percent since 2007, but consumption is growing overseas.
She said a new KFC franchise is opening in China every 13 hours, and McDonald’s is opening a new restaurant in China every 30 hours. O’Quinn also encouraged beef cattle producers to get into the export market to open up markets for the whole cow.
“You’ve got to sell every pound of that whole carcass,” O’Quinn said. “We’re able to sell items that we don’t have as much demand for here, overseas. In Japan, the tongue market is over $12 a pound. Folks are eating these things outside the U.S. and it’s driving your bottom lines higher ”
Curt Lacy, an extension economist at the University of Georgia, said most of Georgia’s row crops had a very good year in 2012, although that’s not such a cause for celebration for livestock producers.
“If we’re talking about trying to increase cattle production to try to meet the demand, where is the incentive to take land out of crop production and plant it in pasture? There is not any,” Lacy said.
The economist summed up the session with reference to the ongoing drought that has hammered the Midwest in particular.
“You don’t really need an economist to predict the markets for this year. What you need is something that can tell you if it’s going to rain or not. That’s what all these forecasts really hinge on,” Lacy said.