Virginia Looks to Grow Agricultural Exports to India

November 21, 2011

As Gov. Bob McDonnell wraps up a two-week job creation and marketing mission to Israel and India, Virginia officials hope a new initiative announced Monday will increase agricultural and forestry product exports to the world's second-most populated country.

The plan to develop and pursue new sales opportunities for Virginia's agribusiness producers and exporters in India includes the hiring of a firm to represent the state's agricultural and forestry interests.

Virginia's agricultural exports to India were valued at $3.2 million in 2010, and officials say the country's growing economy is expected to increase demand for imported agricultural products. McDonnell said he believes India could be the next China, whose agricultural imports from Virginia were negligible 15 years ago, but is now the state's second-leading export customer.

Agriculture and forestry have a combined economic impact of $79 billion annually in Virginia and provide about 500,000 jobs.

McDonnell and other economic development officials on Nov. 10 began the two-week trade mission aimed at strengthening Virginia's relationship with foreign companies and meeting with prospective corporate investors and importers.

McDonnell first traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel, to meet with executives from technology, agribusiness and manufacturing companies. He also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. The trade mission continued in the Indian cities of Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi, where officials met with companies there and promoted Virginia tourism and wines before returning to Virginia.

McDonnell said he expects the trip to yield several job creation and export announcements over the next several months.

"This has been a tremendous opportunity to put Virginia on the map," McDonnell said in a conference call Monday. "We are very encouraged by the ability of Virginia to tell its story around the world."

Funding for the India initiative was approved by the General Assembly in 2011. State lawmakers also approved funding for an agricultural export office in China, which is expected to take place at a later date.

The most recent trip was the Republican governor's fourth trade mission since he took office in January 2010. Other trips included visits to Japan, China, South Korea and Europe.

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