The university decided to place the focus of this year’s tour on the state’s agricultural exports and asked Ms. Falls to be the keynote speaker in each of the participating cities.
In her presentations, Ms. Falls quickly put the importance of agricultural exports into perspective saying that in the past 10 years Georgia’s exports have grown 141 percent to $34.7 billion with more wood pulp, minerals, aluminum, poultry, pecans, and textile floor coverings exported from Georgia than any other state in the U.S.
From 2006 through 2011, Georgia’s agricultural exports rose from $1.15 billion to $2.64 billion with major categories including meat and offal, animal feed, nuts and oil seed, edible preparations and cereals.
While Canada, China, Mexico, Singapore, Japan and Germany were the state’s top export markets, the leading markets for agricultural products were Canada, Hong Kong and Mexico.
Ms. Falls also pointed to the Savannah port’s importance now that it has become the second largest container port in the country for exports with 39 percent of the containers filled with agricultural commodities including wood pulp, food and paper and paperboard.
Her chart of the state’s top 21 agricultural markets also showed some surprises with six-year totals, from 2006-11, of $155 million in exports to Angola; of $146 million to Morocco and of $219 million to Vietnam.
Ms. Falls told Global Atlanta by telephone while on her way from Bainbridge to Lyons that she was anxious to receive the figures for 2012 in February, and was somewhat self-conscious not having the latest figures available.
She was pleased, however, by the participation in the program with Tifton drawing the most with 250 attendees but the other cities doing well such as Bainbridge with 80.
A major goal of the tour, she said, was to encourage smaller firms to become engaged in international trade, and she was positive about her encounters with growers of cotton, pecans, peaches and peanuts.
As a specific example, she was able to refer to a pecan grower who with the assistance of her department had sold $800,000 worth of pecans to an Israeli buyer.