Almost seven years after Virginia last exported chicken to China, a fresh shipment is finally underway. China lifted its ban on Virginia chicken in May and the first ship left Norfolk on June 20th with a cargo of wings from Perdue Foods. The resumption of chicken exports is expected to be worth more than $20 million to Virginia’s poultry industry in the first year alone, with rapid growth in the years that follow. China is already Virginia’s biggest market for agricultural products, and with the addition of chicken, annual revenues look set to exceed $600 million.
While the importance to Virginia’s economy of agriculture exports to China is significant, an even bigger deal was recently announced. Chesterfield County, located just south of Richmond, will be the site of a $2 billion investment by Shandong Tranlin Paper Co., a major Chinese pulp and paper manufacturer. In addition to creating 2,000 new jobs by the end of the decade, the new factory will also create new revenues for Virginia’s farmers by purchasing waste products such as corn stalks to be used as raw material at the Chesterfield plant. The facility will be Shandong Tranlin’s first anywhere in the US, and will be the largest Chinese investment in the state of Virginia’s history. It is also reported to be the largest ever greenfield Chinese investment anywhere in the US. According to the company’s website, environmental sustainability will be a guiding principle in all of their lines of business.
Governor Terry McAuliffe, like Governor Bob McDonnell before him, has made trade relations with China a priority for his administration. In the past few years, Chinese investment in the state has increased substantially, and China is the largest destination in Asia for Virginia’s goods exports by a wide margin. The successes of this relationship are supported in part by the facilities at the Port of Norfolk, which is one of the largest deep water seaports on the East Coast and handles significant amounts of agricultural exports and imports. China was the third-largest export destination for agriculture products from the Port of Norfolk in 2011.
Given the deals that have been implemented thus far, the existence of substantial infrastructure to support further increases, and the priority placed on the relationship by the state government, Virginia is likely to see its economic interactions with China continue to rise in the coming years.