Farmers and businesses across the Southeast should be exporting more of their products, says a University of Georgia expert.
“We have not scratched the surface. We haven’t even approached it yet,” said Lannie Lanier, a UGA Extension special projects coordinator.
Lanier helped organize the International Agribusiness Conference in Savannah this week. The conference, which started on Wednesday and will conclude Thursday, is highlighting the exporting of agricultural commodities from Georgia and other Southeastern states.
“What we wanted to try to do is get people thinking about not only selling their product locally and nationally, but internationally, and what are the hoops you have to jump through to make that happen,” Lanier said.
The conference followed a farm tour on Tuesday that took 25 attendees to cities around the southeastern part of the state, including Claxton, Vidalia and Glennville. The idea behind visiting small businesses like Claxton Fruit Cake, Vidalia Valley and Mascot Pecans was to explore how these companies thrive and hope to benefit from exporting.
“People may be thinking, ‘Maybe I’ve saturated my market in Georgia, or I’ve saturated my market nationally with my product and I can’t sell anymore. Maybe somebody in Europe or Asia or China or India, that’s my next market,’” Lanier said.
The tour was an informational and educational experience for Bill Worthington, an agribusiness instructor with Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro.
“I think (exporting) is something everybody’s going to have to look into,” Worthington said. “It’s part of diversity. The more places you can sell your crop, the better off you are.”
And the better off the state and region will be as well. If more farmers and businesses across the Southeast started exporting, it would boost the local economy, creating jobs and stimulating taxes.
Some 200 people are attending the conference at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. The conference is sponsored by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
(Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)