RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced new exports of Virginia seafood to Canada as a result of his recent trade and tourism mission to the country. The trade deals represent significant new revenue streams for Rappahannock River Oyster Company (Rappahannock) into the important Canadian market, the second largest export market for Virginia’s agricultural and forestry industries, which include seafood and aquaculture products. Today’s announcement is the fourth significant development this week in Virginia’s oyster industry, the largest on the East Coast.
"These new deals are another step toward reaching my goal of building a new Virginia economy by working with Virginia businesses, foreign purchasers, and government leaders from around the world to find new trade opportunities and making Virginia the East Coast capital for agricultural and forestry product exports,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking about the new seafood exports forged on his trip to Canada. “Growing exports to Canada, which has been a longtime top trade partner with Virginia, and elsewhere, provides more revenue and job creation opportunities for Virginia’s producers and agribusinesses.”
In advance of the September mission, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) international marketing staff, working in partnership with the Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC) and each of their Canada-based representatives, established relationships with Canadian importers in hopes of achieving new sales from Virginia. During the mission, Governor McAuliffe, along with Agriculture and Forestry Secretary Todd Haymore and VDACS and VTC staff, met with the importers to promote a variety of Virginia agricultural products.
Rappahannock participated in several meetings with seafood importers during the trade mission, including one with Lagoon Seafood of Lachine, Quebec. In the weeks following, Rappahannock negotiated with Lagoon and is now making weekly shipments of Virginia clams and oysters to the importer. In addition to the new sales negotiated with Lagoon, Rappahannock also secured a deal with SeaCore, a Toronto-based seafood importer, to regularly supply the company with Virginia oysters. SeaCore delivers oysters and other seafood to retail chains and restaurants in the greater Toronto area. Sales figures are confidential.
“Globally promoting Virginia’s agribusinesses and family-owned agricultural operations is an important component to growing Virginia’s trade portfolio" said Secretary Haymore. “With more than 80 percent of the world’s consumer base living outside of the United States and every one dollar in exports from Virginia generating approximately $1.30 within the state, it is clear why growing exports is key to the Governor’s work to build a new Virginia economy. Working with the international marketing and development teams in Virginia and our network of trade offices around the world, we are able to support small businesses like Rappahannock.”
A part of the Virginia seafood industry for more than 100 years, Rappahannock is a well-known producer of oysters and clams from the Chesapeake Bay region. Company owners Travis and Ryan Croxton have been instrumental in redeveloping oyster production in the Chesapeake Bay during the last 15 years, helping lead Virginia’s resurgence as an oyster producer and growing the Commonwealth’s overall standing as the top seafood producing state on the East Coast.
“Growing our international sales is a critical part of our strategy to expand our business and develop not only the Rappahannock brand, but the Chesapeake Bay oyster brand as well,” said Travis Croxton, co-owner of Rappahannock. “We are so appreciative of the efforts of the Governor’s office, VDACS, VTC, and their in-country partners to develop new sales channels for us around the world. We could not have made these sales to Canada without their support and the introductions they made to our new customers.”
Rappahannock co-owner Ryan Croxton added, “As a Virginia business, we are lucky to have these resources available to us and we rely upon them to guide us in our international growth.”
Today’s announcement marks the fourth major development from Virginia’s thriving oyster industry this week. On Monday, Governor McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe officially opened the Virginia Oyster Trail, a public-private sector initiative that connects and promotes oyster producers, restaurants, wineries, craft breweries and artisans over 250 miles around the Chesapeake Bay from the Northern Neck to the Eastern Shore. In addition, the Governor awarded a $35,000 planning grant from the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund to the Northern Neck Planning District Commission and partner communities throughout the Middle Peninsula and Eastern Shore aimed at further promoting and enhancing the oyster trail project. On Tuesday, the Governor announced that Virginia’s oyster harvest exceeded 650,000 bushels last year, a 24 percent from the previous year’s harvest. Last year’s harvest is the largest in almost three decades.
Agricultural and forestry exports from Virginia, including seafood exports, reached a record high of $3.35 billion in 2014, an increase of more than 14 percent from 2013. Canada is the second largest market for Virginia's agriculture and forestry products, with more than $279 million in exports in 2014, a 7 percent increase over the 2013 level. This figure is expected to rise for calendar year 2015 based on data from the first nine months of the year.