Savannah now the top US port for ag exports


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Georgia-grown produce such as cotton, peanuts, pecans, blueberries and other commodities are among the Port of Savannah’s major agricultural exports.

Forest products, poultry major commodities

The Port of Savannah is now the top export gateway for U.S. agricultural products, overtaking the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York-New Jersey in Calendar Year 2019.

“Agriculture is a major driver for Georgia’s economy, contributing $74 billion in annual economic benefit and nearly 400,000 jobs across the state,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. “As this country’s No. 1 port for the export of agricultural products, Savannah provides vital support for the state and nation, helping our farmers reach overseas buyers efficiently.”

Savannah’s strong-performing commodities in CY2019 included:

  • Wood pulp, up 10 percent (18,275 TEUs) to 201,634 TEUs
  • Cotton, up 19.5 percent (14,951 TEUs) to 91,612 TEUs
  • Food products, up 7.6 percent (11,807 TEUs) to 166,618 TEUs
    • Poultry up 5.3 percent to 67,684 TEUs
    • Grains and flour products up 71.3 percent to 8,537 TEUs
    • Soybeans up 34.9 percent to 5,929 TEUs

Other forest products, such as logs, lumber and paper, saw declines, which mitigated much of the growth otherwise in this important category for Savannah. Looking forward, the trade deal with China has reopened that market for U.S. logs and lumber, and the export outlook for these goods has improved for the current year.

Additionally, Savannah is the nation’s top export terminal for peanuts, a commodity experiencing strong global demand. For the 12-month period ending April 2020, the Port of Savannah handled 16,310 twenty-foot equivalent container units of raw peanut exports, an increase of 47 percent or 5,200 TEUs compared to the same period a year ago.

According to trade data from the U.S. Census Bureau, China, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Colombia increased their shares of GPA ag exports by more than half a percent in calendar 2019 over 2018.  Specifically, ag exports to China were driven in part by demand for animal feeds and more frozen meats to cover a pork shortage.

In CY2019, agriculture accounted for 60 percent of Savannah’s exports, or more than 843,000 TEUs twenty-foot equivalent container units. Forest products such as wood pulp, paper and logs made up the largest category of goods, followed by clay, cotton, poultry and peanuts.

In CY2018, the Port of Savannah exported 4,068 twenty-foot equivalent container units of fresh fruits and vegetables. In CY2019, Savannah’s Garden City Terminal exported 7,092 TEUs of these commodities, for growth of 74 percent. Much of that increase came through growth in citrus, avocados, potatoes and other vegetables.

For the fiscal year to date (July 2019-May 2020), total loaded exports have increased by 15,500 twenty-foot equivalent container units to 1.33 million TEUs.

Savannah caters to exporters through better access to empty containers and chassis. GPA has been working with shipping lines to ensure empty container availability for exports. Garden City Terminal averages 20,000 empties available daily, containers that were previously used to move import cargo on the port’s 37 weekly vessel services.

Through GPA’s association with the South Atlantic Chassis Pool II, the Port of Savannah is providing newer, higher-quality chassis, and more of them. Because of an upsurge in driver-owned chassis, Savannah’s chassis pool has yet to see 65 percent utilization.