Governor to expand apple exports to India

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is seeking to improve Virginia’s status in the agricultural industry.

McAuliffe announced this month that there will be new apple export sales from Virginia to India.

This development is a part of a strategic plan to grow agricultural exports that was launched in 2010 by former Gov. Bob McDonnell, according to Todd Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry for the state of Virginia.

That plan has been one of McAuliffe’s top priorities since taking office in 2014.

Haymore said apple exports with India have been in the works since November 2011, when the India Trade Office was opened.

“We are really trying to promote the growth of exports as a way to build this new Virginia economy,” Haymore said.

McAuliffe will be hosting a delegation of Indian apple buyers that met with local apple growers in Charlottesville as well as the upper Shenandoah Valley.

One farm that the delegation visited was Glaizer Apples in Winchester.

Phil Glaizer, owner and operator of Glaizer Apples, said he met with five buyers from India earlier this month. He added that he is in discussions with one buyer to nail down sales.

“There’s a tremendous amount of detail to address before we put apples on a boat and send them over there,” Glaizer said.

Glaizer said they shipped “a couple of containers” of apples to India in 2012, 12 containers in 2013 and expect to ship even more in the future.

In terms of impact, Glaizer stressed the importance of having several different markets for business.

“We can’t rely on the same old domestic markets that we used to,” Glaizer said.

Haymore said the strategic plan focused on countries and areas that have growing populations and economies, including China, India and the European Union.

“The purchasing power in these regions [is] growing and we want to capitalize on that,” Haymore added.

Haymore said part of the goal with increased exports is to “show return on investment to the commonwealth.”

A study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2012 that examined the effects of trade found that, for every dollar spent exporting goods, there was a $1.27 return.

When it comes to exporting goods, Haymore added, “For a relatively small investment, the return is outstanding.”

Virginia has exported “just over $1.6 million in apples to India … as of September” of this year, according to a news release issued by the governor’s office this month.

Haymore said that most of the current exports to India are lumber and forest products. The news release noted that Virginia’s exports have totaled $8 million, which is up from $5 million in 2013.

“I would love for that number to reach double digits by the end of the year,” Haymore said.

The key aspect of this Indian market, according to Haymore, is that it appears that “sales are going to be sustained” in Virginia’s relationship with India.

Haymore explained that exports on certain products could be one-offs or sporadic in nature.

A nation like India that constitutes a regular customer is critical because it allows everyone in the business chain — from McAuliffe to local farmers and warehouseman — to plan for the future, said Haymore.

Haymore added that, because of the impact exporting goods can have on the business chain, “every export deal is huge for the state.”

Glaizer added that he believes exporting will be a big boost to farms in Virginia.

“It’ll help farms be more sustainable, stay in business,” he said.

Haymore mentioned that growth in the area of apple exports to India has “taken time to develop.”

“We had hoped for it to open up faster,” Haymore said, adding that this development could be an “example of persistence in efforts to make connections.”

Haymore said the state will look to expand its agricultural exports to other products.

“This is a huge opportunity [and] hopefully we are just scratching the surface,” Haymore said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com