New data shows Maine foreign exports down about 12 percent

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LEWISTON — New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show exports of Maine goods to other countries declined by 12 percent from 2012 to 2013.

The data, released for all 50 states Thursday, show Maine exported about $2.68 billion worth of goods in 2013, a decline of $370 million from $3.05 billion in 2012.

Exports to Canada, the state’s top trading partner, were up by 3.5 percent, an increase of $46 million for a total of $1.4 billion, but exports to China — a country state officials have often cited as having a large export growth potential — was down by 10 percent.

But some of the decline is the result of the way one Maine semiconductor maker is reporting its exports, said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of the Maine International Trade Center and state director for international trade.

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“A lot of our dip in exports from 2012 to 2013 was due to the semiconductor industry where one of the groups has made internal changes and are not reporting their exports from Maine, but are reporting them from the port of export,” Bisaillon-Cary wrote in a message to the Sun Journal.

Exports of the state’s top 25 commodities, including potatoes, raw lumber and lobsters, were down overall by about 10 percent, according to the Census Bureau data.

With two mills closing during the reporting period, it was not surprising that exports of Maine-made paper products were down by about 24 percent, a decrease of $20 million. But paper sector exports were down a whopping 50 percent from 2010, from $124 million to $63 million.

Also showing a sharp decline was the export of civilian aircraft, engines and parts down to $159 million in 2013 from $245 million in 2012.

Another sector that showed a dramatic decline was electronic integrated circuits, which went from $357 million in 2012 to $47 million in 2013.

Whole, raw potato exports were down by 7 percent and sea urchin exports were down 6 percent. 

On the bright side, the export of lobsters, the state’s top export commodity, was up 5.3 percent, an increase of about $12 million from 2012.

Also up were exports of farmed salmon and exports of fresh blueberries and cranberries.

State political leaders said the data were interesting but not terribly surprising.

Maine House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said he and other leaders were eager to see 2014 data because of signs that the Chinese economy was “ramping up again.”

He said signs on some food exports, particularly fish and shellfish, were hopeful but the state should be concerned about produce exports, especially potatoes, which were showing a downward slide.

“I think as a whole we need to come up with a specific strategy in Maine to look at everything we are manufacturing and making sure that people around the world know it’s the utmost quality and the highest standards,” McCabe said.

He said a bigger focus on promoting Maine-grown food should be in play as well.

“We need to make sure that people know we have high-quality food and safe food,” McCabe said. “We need to work to get that word out.”

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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