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June 10, 2019

Port of Oakland ag exports rebound despite tariffs

Shippers turning to markets outside China to meet demand for U.S. farm goods

Containerized agricultural exports are rebounding despite an ongoing trade war, the Port of Oakland reported today. The Port said farm good shipments in the first four months of 2019 increased 12 percent over last year.

The Port added that ag exports to China rose 5 percent, despite that nation's tariff standoff with the U.S. The trends are welcome after Oakland's worldwide ag exports declined 10 percent in 2018.

"It's too soon to declare victory in this segment given the trade outlook," said Port of Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll. "But our performance so far this year shows two things: there's continued demand for U.S. farm goods and growers are resourceful when it comes to finding markets for their products."

Through April, the Port said it had exported the equivalent of 108,724 20-foot-containers loaded with farm products. That was up from 97,376 containers in the same timeframe last year. According to Port data, most of those shipments went to Asia. The Port said the average value per container of its ag export commodities was $36,000. A year ago, the figure was only $31,500, the Port said.

The Port said increased export volume reflected the growth of Asia's middle class. As populations gain purchasing power, they turn to U.S. farm goods renowned for high quality, the Port said.

The Port said Asian markets outside China accounted for most of the growth in Oakland agricultural exports. Among the leading destinations: Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan. The Port said U.S. producers have turned to those destinations since China imposed tariffs on American farm goods, making them more expensive for overseas buyers.

Agricultural commodities account for about 37 percent of all international exports shipped from Oakland, the Port said. The farm goods range from containerized rice to dried fruits, nuts and refrigerated beef. Roughly 11 percent of Oakland's ag shipments have gone to China so far, this year.

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