Growth in ag shipments to Asia lifts cargo volume, now 40 percent of total loads
Oakland, Calif. - Growth in high-value agricultural shipments is driving a containerized export boom at the Port of Oakland. The Port released new figures today showing sizable increases in fruit, nut and meat exports destined primarily for Asia. The agricultural surge has lifted Oakland total export volume 10 percent over 2015 levels through October.
“We’re seeing a favorable confluence of events,” said Beth Frisher, the Port’s Manager of Business Development and International Marketing. “Demand for high-quality U.S. agricultural commodities is growing and producers here have been able to respond thanks to good harvests and higher yields.”
Agricultural exports have increased 16 percent in the past year, the Port said. Farm products now account for 40 percent of Oakland’s 2016 total exports, up from 38 percent last year.
The Port said much of the increase comes from a 30 percent rise in shipments of edible fruits and nuts. The Port exported the equivalent of 65,600 20-foot containers full of those products through September. That was up from 50,306 containers a year ago. Grain and seed shipments increased 35 percent in that period, the Port said. Meat exports climbed 15 percent.
The Port attributed much of its export growth to the rise of Asia’s middle class. It said that consumers with newfound purchasing power are clamoring for higher-quality American farm products. The Port said its top five export destinations are China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Its top five export commodities: wood pulp, fruits and nuts, beverages and spirits, meats and cereals.
“California agricultural exports have exceeded expectations so far in 2016 and in no small part due to Oakland’s performance,” said Dr. Walter Kemmsies, Managing Director, Economist and Chief Strategist for the U.S. Ports, Airports and Global Infrastructure Group at JLL, the commercial real estate and investment management firm. “While U.S. agricultural exports have declined in 2016, Oakland has registered an increase.”
Dr. Kemmsies said exports are stronger than expected due to tighter stocks in Asia and higher production in the U.S. He added that improvement has occurred despite the relatively high foreign exchange value of the dollar. A strong dollar makes U.S. exports less competitive. In that case, transportation efficiency is critical to export competitiveness, he said.
According to Dr. Kemmsies, the 2017 export outlook looks more positive due to improving global economic conditions. “Regardless of other factors, Oakland looks poised to outperform again,” he said.
The Port said exports make up 52 percent of its total laden container volume. Imports account for the other 48 percent. The near 50-50 split in cargo mix is unique, the Port said. Other major U.S. ports are heavily skewed toward imports, reflecting the country’s $36.4 billion trade deficit. The Port attributed its export emphasis to two factors:
- Proximity to California’s major growing regions in the Central, Napa and Salinas valleys; and
- Its role as the jumping off point for ships returning to Asian markets from the U.S.