Published online: Jun 01, 2012 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting
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BOISE, Idaho-Idaho ag exports increased modestly during the first quarter compared with the same period in 2011. But because 2011 was a record year for Idaho farm exports, the small increase is viewed as a positive sign.

"Last year was a record year so ... I would call it a solid export performance," Laura Johnson, manager of the
Idaho State Department of Agriculture's market development division, said.

Idaho exported $834 million worth of ag products last year, which was a 22 percent increase over the previous state record set in 2008. During the first quarter of 2012, Idaho ag exports totaled $226 million, a 2.5 percent increase over the first quarter of 2011.

"The overall message is that Idaho ag exports during the first quarter remained strong," Johnson said.

The minor increase was led by a 35 percent jump in exports to Mexico, which imported $41.2 million worth of Idaho ag products during the first quarter compared with $30.5 million in 2011.

Idaho ag exports to China increased 35.5 percent to $15.3 million, and they rose 38.4 percent in South Korea, which imported $9.6 million worth of Idaho farm products.

Idaho has held several trade missions to Mexico and China in recent years and ISDA officials visited South Korea in April.

"We're going to the right places," Johnson said.

Canada, which remains the largest purchaser of Idaho ag products, imported $53.5 million worth of Idaho farm products during the first quarter, an 8.8 percent increase.

Idaho ag exports to Thailand jumped 676 percent to $5.8 million. That massive increase was due mostly to dairy sales.

Exports to Japan dropped 13.8 percent to $16.1 million. Japan is the No. 3 purchaser of Idaho ag products, but Johnson said that country purchased a lot more butter from Idaho last year and she doesn't consider the decrease to be alarming.

Exports also dropped 70 percent or $10 million to Malaysia and 15 percent ($1.9 million) to the Netherlands.

Dairy remained the state's No. 1 ag export with $60 million in sales during the first quarter. However, dairy exports declined 11.8 percent.

Milk Producers of Idaho Executive Director Brent Olmstead said Idaho dairy exports soared in 2011 to $268 million, a 70 percent increase over 2010.

He said the dip was probably just an adjustment from last year's large increase.

"Last year was a pretty good year for dairy exports," he said, so the decrease "is nothing to panic over at all."

Vegetable exports decreased 22.6 percent to $36.1 million but exports of oilseeds, vegetable seed and alfalfa seed increased 33.9 percent to $36 million.

Exports that fall under the sugar category soared 575 percent to $11.8 million. That increase was almost entirely due to sales of dairy lactose.

Idaho wheat and barley exports increased 20 percent to 13.5 million and a 34.2 percent increase in the "preserved food" category, to $15.5 million, was led by a 133 percent increase in french fry sales, which totaled $8 million.

SOURCE: Sean Ellis, Capital Press