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ODA certification provides snapshot of Oregon ag exports

Asia is still the top export destination, based on ODA inspection & certification

It may not be the final word on where Oregon agricultural commodities are being exported, but phytosanitary certificates written by inspectors with the Oregon Department of Agriculture give a good idea of the state's top export markets and what is being sent to those markets. Data from 2012 confirms Asia as a major destination for Oregon agricultural products, but U.S. neighbors Mexico and Canada remain key export markets for a number of crops grown in Oregon.

"We don't look at everything that is exported from Oregon and not everything requires a phytosanitary certificate, but we do inspect nearly all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, and many other major agricultural commodities such as Christmas trees, nursery stock, and grass seed," says Jim Cramer, director of ODA’s Market Access and Certification Program Area. "These statistics are consistent with what we see from other available export numbers."

ODA inspectors examine a variety of field crops before issuing phytosanitary certificates that assure the commodity is clean of pests and diseases. Without the piece of paper with ODA's stamp of approval, there is no guarantee the commodity meets the export country's standards. The importance of timely inspection and certification is even more critical for highly perishable fresh fruits and vegetables.

“When you look at the amount of product that leaves Oregon destined for international markets and the fact that much of it has to travel with that certificate, it’s easy to see that ODA’s role is critical to helping Oregon agriculture be successful,” says Cramer.

About 40 percent of what is produced by Oregon agriculture heads to other countries. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, total annual exports for Oregon agricultural commodities the past three years has averaged about $1.6 billion. In 2012, ODA inspectors– ranging from those working at various shipping point district office to Christmas tree inspectors– issued phytosanitary certificates enabling more than 2.3 billion pounds of fresh product to be shipped to other countries. The value of just the top 10 exported commodities alone exceeded $270 million last year. Based on that figure, combined with the value of other commodities, ODA’s service of inspection and providing phytosanitary certificates is responsible for an estimated 17 percent of the state’s agricultural exports.

Again, it is important to emphasize that many exported Oregon-grown crops do not require phytosanitary certificates. Some commodities may need one for certain countries of destination, but not others. ODA’s numbers are not intended to give the full export picture, especially since they don’t include processed agricultural goods. However, the statistics show some interesting trends.

“It’s no secret that Asia is a major market for us,” says Cramer. “Mexico and Canada remain very important, but the growth in those countries isn’t nearly as significant as what we see in Asia. In fact, more than half of the world’s population lives within a five hour plane ride from Hong Kong.”

A general estimation of Oregon’s top six export markets based on ODA data shows the Asian influence: (ranking based on 2012 farmgate value of products exported from Oregon to that country)

Hong Kong $44.0 m​​illion​
​Mexico ​$33.7 million
​Japan ​$28.9 million
​South Korea ​$27.9 m​​illion
​China ​$25.6 million
​Canada ​$14.6 million
Perched on top, Hong Kong is a unique market in that it acts as a gatekeeper of Oregon agricultural products to China and Southeast Asia. Hong Kong is not the ultimate consumer. The biggest impact on Hong Kong comes from Oregon hazelnuts, responsible for more than $43 million of last year’s total. Mexico receives a variety of commodities from Oregon, but gets a boost from being the state’s top customer for Christmas trees. Japan and South Korea remain steady export partners for Oregon. China is the fastest growing market for Oregon and no doubt receives product through Hong Kong, which is not reflected in ODA’s numbers. Canada’s standing would be higher, but ODA’s statistics don’t take into account the large volume of nursery products that are sent north or the relaxation of trade between the US and its neighbor, eliminating the need for phytosanitary certificates. Among the next group, Vietnam is emerging as a major export market and is expected to expand.

The top six Oregon export commodities requiring a phytosanitary certificate from ODA, based on farmgate value in 2012, is as follows:

​Grass seed ​$69.5 million
​​Hazelnuts ​$67.2 million
​Grass straw and hay​ ​$42.6 million
​Pears ​$30.9 million
​Cherries ​$21.3 million
​Christmas trees ​$13.6 million

China remains a major importer of Oregon grass seed, a crop that has rebounded from global recession. Hazelnuts, with a good price last year, remains near the top of the list. Grass straw and hay continues to provide forage for Asian countries. The straw is a good example of turning what was once considered a waste product in the field into something of value. Pears and cherries are two fresh fruits that find their way into a number of export markets. In particular, Oregon pears are popular in South America. Following the top six are high-volume staples such as potatoes and onions, along with the fastest growing of Oregon commodities– blueberries.

The snapshot of export activity provided by ODA phytosanitary certificates shows an active process that requires the work of ODA inspectors, who last year were responsible for about 2.3 billion pounds of product making it to the international marketplace.

For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.

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