Delaware is one of the country's leading producers of broiler chickens and lima beans, is a significant producer of soybeans, field corn, watermelons, peas, sweet corn, potatoes and dairy products and has a thriving seafood industry of crabs, clams and oysters. The State also has a strong Thoroughbred and harness racing-industry, plus a growing agritourism sector, including wineries and breweries.
The numbers paint an impressive picture:
- Delaware's 2,500 farms account for 39 percent of all land in the state
- Agriculture's annual aggregate contribution to the State's economy is estimated at nearly $8 billion
- The annual value of agricultural production exceeds $1.2 billion
- The state ranks first nationally in the value of agricultural products sold per acre
- Poultry is the backbone of the State's agricultural industry, contributing $3.2 billion to Delaware's economy
Successes at home can mean opportunities abroad for the State's agribusinesses and suppliers.
Fresh and Processed Vegetables
Data from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and the Produce Marketing Association indicates that Canada and Mexico present excellent export opportunities for U.S. farmers. Despite its small size, the island nation of Bermuda also offers some opportunity for the export of fresh vegetables.
- Vegetable consumption in Canada is substantially higher than in the U.S., and Canada is the largest buyer of American vegetables. The country imported $1.8 billion of fresh vegetables and $615 million of processed vegetables from the U.S. last year, an increase of 7.9 percent over the previous year. U.S. processors have competitive advantage in the scale of production.
- There is also increasing demand in Canada's $97 billion food processing sector for vegetables.
- Canada's largest import is the potato. The country imported some 305,000 tons of potatoes last year, and the U.S. had 17 percent share of the market. The country also imported 212,000 tons of watermelons last year, and the U.S. had 9 percent of the market share.
- Delaware farmers have opportunities to work directly with Canadian retailers on a long term basis.
- Mexico imported $292 million of processed vegetables last year, an increase of 20 percent over the previous year, and $153 million of fresh vegetables, an increase of 29 over the previous year.
- Fresh produce sales increased 8 percent and the Mexican retail market grew by 10.8 percent last year. Growth areas include premium supermarkets where consumers will pay a higher price for quality products.
- The country's 17,294 hotels present good opportunities for the hotel and restaurant markets, as do central wholesale markets, which supply 80 percent of the food service market.
Beer and Wine
Delaware's emerging microbrew beer industry and local wineries may have export potential. Naturally, this primarily depends on the DE business' willingness to export. The best target markets are Canada, United Kingdom and Japan.
- Canada's is the largest market for wine and beer produced in the U.S., importing $664 million last year.
- 70 percent of wine in Canada is imported, and Canada's wine market is one of the fastest-growing globally; wine consumption has increased by 20 percent over the past five years, although consumption varies by province. In Quebec, wine accounts for 84 percent of alcohol sales, while in Ontario it is 36 percent.
- Beer sales have increased 6 percent over the past five years, and craft beer is the fastest growing sector, with 33 percent growth in 2012.
- The UK imported $250 million beer and wine from the U.S. last year.
- U.S. micro-brew beers that "tell a story" are attractive to a niche audience in the UK.
- The UK is the leading export destination for U.S. wine, with California wine controlling a 16 percent market share. The USDA projects that other U.S. wines can leverage California's success.
- Japan imported $99 million in beer and wine from the U.S. last year. The U.S. holds an 8.6 percent share of Japan's $1 billion imported wine market.
- Beer accounts for half of Japanese alcohol consumption, and U.S. micro-brews have a proven track record in Japan. Japanese consumers will pay high prices for unique craft beers.
- Wine is now as popular as Sake in Japan, and Japanese consumers prefer fruity, lighter wine with less alcohol. Wines with unique stories and stylish, colorful labels have good potential; the best varietals are Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.