Published on 07/18/13

International Conference to enlighten farmers, businesses about exporting products

By Clint Thompson

While the Port of Savannah is already No. 2 in the nation for export tons, the Georgia Ports Authority hopes to double its capacity within the next decade. That’s good news for Georgia farmers.

“Over the next 10 or 12 years, we’ll be making significant investments in infrastructure and technology improvements to the facility,” said Mark Troughton, global accounts executive at the GPA. “The big part of the goal is to be able to double the capacity we handle today. Today we handle about 3 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent container units). In the future, we’ll be able to handle about 6.5 million TEUs.”

Doubling capacity will enable larger shipments to be exported, meaning a greater opportunity for Georgia farmers and businesses to increase their economic productivity around the world. Already, almost 39 percent of shipments exported through the Savannah port are agricultural commodities.

“We see this very much as a growing market,” Troughton said. “One thing this country does very well is farm. We think we’re going to be the breadbasket for a lot of areas in the world, not just our area, for the next 20 years.”

Farmers and agricultural businesses around the country will have an opportunity to enhance their exporting knowledge at the International Agribusiness Conference and Expo to be held in Savannah on Sept. 25-26. During the two-day event, which is hosted by the University of Georgia and Georgia Southern University at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, participants will interact with industry experts and attend workshops such as finding markets and buyers for your products; financing your export transactions; and learning about the country’s agricultural position in the world market.

Participants will also have a chance to meet with international trade representatives. Georgia Farm Bureau has announced that they will be one of the main sponsors of this year’s event.

“As the global economy continues to grow, Georgia producers are poised to take advantage of increasing demand for food and fiber products,” said Kent Wolfe, director of the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Georgia can export poultry and cotton cheaper than Brazil, providing us a competitive advantage in shipping exports to Europe and China.”

Savannah leads the nation in exporting poultry, the state’s most valuable commodity, according to the 2011 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report.

“The forest products industry is a major economic engine for Georgia. It contributes nearly $25 billion in economic activity within the state and is responsible for over $13 billion in exports,” said Dr. Alexander Koukoulas, President and CEO of the Georgia Southern University Herty Advanced Materials Development Center in Savannah.

“Our natural resources in biomass are second-to-none and present a huge opportunity for value creation. Herty not only supports the pulp and paper industry, but it is in the forefront of the biomass-to-energy industry and has a rich 75 year history in developing new uses for bio-based materials,” he added.

In 2012 Georgia exported $37.9 billion worth of goods. The state is the top exporter of U.S. poultry, pecans and wood pulp. Peanut exports are on the rise. About 39 percent of the shipments exported through the Port of Savannah are agricultural products.

Early registration for the inaugural conference is $170 and ends July 30. For more information about the conference and to register, visit

A promotional video clip can be viewed at

Clint Thompson is an agriculture writer based in Tifton, Georgia.

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