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Oregon Grown: Big exports business threatened

Thanks to its prime position in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon is a major exporter to countries across the globe. In 2017, the state exported more than $5 billion in agricultural products, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

This included nearly $647 million in food and agricultural products to Japan, the state’s largest ag export market, followed by South Korea ($379 million), Canada ($361 million), China ($290 million) and the Philippines ($185 million).

Fruits and vegetables represent a quarter of the state’s ag exports. Top produce exports include potatoes, pears, grapes, onions, cherries, and apples.

While exports to Canada and Mexico are primarily shipped by truck, commodities headed to overseas destinations are transported via one of the state’s 23 ports.

Oregon is home to 14 coastal ports with 9 along the Columbia River, including Portland, where ag products represent nearly 60 percent of its total export tonnage.

Trade tariffs are an ongoing concern for many Oregon producers and exporters. China raised tariffs on U.S.-grown hazelnuts, watermelon, pears, cherries, apples, and berries.

Since the country is a top trade partner of Oregon, the increase would be a major blow to state growers. Mexico, too, levied tariffs in 2018, adding a 15 to 25 percent tariff on U.S.-grown apples, potatoes, and cranberries.

Paul Kern, sales manager with Botsford & Goodfellow, Inc. in Portland, acknowledges the uncertainty, threats of tariffs, and even exchange rates have all had an impact.

“New tariffs and the value of the Canadian dollar have both played rolls in slowing up exports to Mexico and Canada.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.