Va. exports expanding into Africa, Middle East

Associate Editor

RICHMOND, Va. (June 28, 2016) — Virginia export marketing will soon move into the Middle East and North Africa.
The state department of agriculture was searching earlier this month for marketing and promotional assistance for Virginia-produced agricultural goods to be sold in the region, according to a request for proposals the department released last month.
Those products include, but aren’t limited to, commodities, processed foods and beverages, seafood and aquaculture and forest products.
The contract offer is part of a continuing expansion of the state’s international exporting program, launched in 2011, that has seen trade offices open in China, India, the United Kingdom, Russia, Canada and Mexico, department Secretary Todd Haymore said.
In that time, yearly exports have jumped from $2.24 billion in 2010 to $3.19 billion last year, he said.
“We know that we’re seeing good return on investment to the state of Virginia by having these boots on the ground,” Haymore said. “It’s a relatively small investment… that generates really, really good return.”
Virginia has also risen from an export ranking of fifth on the East Coast to second behind Georgia.
The request for Middle Eastern marketing services follows a similar request released in April for services in Southeast Asia.
The department is reaching out to firms operating in both regions, Haymore said.
In the Middle East, the department also wants the agency to research and advise the state on labeling issues and other regulatory requirements related to agribusiness in the region, the request said.
It would also help Virginia exporters contact regional importers, distributors and retailers, including providing interpretation and translation services when necessary.
The selected company would also assist with travel to the region for Virginia exporters and department officials, including hotel arrangements and transportation.
It would also arrange buyer missions to Virginia.
Proposals were due to the department June 7.
Virginia has also recently promoted its success in the Caribbean, particularly in Cuba, where it is the largest American exporter to the island nation.
Virginia exported nearly $42 million in agricultural goods to Cuba last year, a 67 percent increase over the previous year.
Now, Haymore said, he wants to overtake Georgia on the ranking and make Virginia “the East Coast capital for exports.”
“We’re going after them,” he said.