Despite uncertainty with international markets, ND exports up in 2018

Petroleum contributed significantly to the $1 billion growth in North Dakota exports in 2018. Forum file photo
Petroleum contributed significantly to the $1 billion growth in North Dakota exports in 2018. Forum file photo

FARGO — North Dakota exporters achieved positive growth in 2018 despite uncertainty within international markets. Recently released statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that North Dakota's tracked exports were up overall by $1 billion for a total of $6.8 billion in 2018. This represents an increase of 16.2 percent over 2017.

Petroleum contributed to about three quarters of the growth, but many other segments increased as well, making North Dakota one of the top in the nation for export growth.

Among North Dakota industries with export growth were equipment manufacturing, up by more than $126 million or 26 percent, vitamins up by 54 percent, and fertilizers up by 62 percent. Numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau do not account for all agricultural exports from the state. In 2017, the USDA reported $4.5 billion in agricultural exports from North Dakota.

Tariffs on U.S. products entering foreign countries had a significant impact on North Dakota industries, including ethanol, specialty crops, oilseeds such as flax and canola, and pork, all of which saw decreases in exports. Malt exports were also down, however this is likely due to the closing of the Cargill plant in Jamestown.

"The year 2018 was very different in terms of international trade," said NDTO Executive Director Simon Wilson. "The numbers show that despite challenges of foreign market barriers, our North Dakota businesses continued to excel in finding new customers and markets. North Dakota is an export state. It is important that we continue to have access to foreign markets and build on this continued success."

Including agricultural exports, approximately 19 percent of North Dakota's GDP is reliant on exports. NDTO works alongside the U.S. Department of Commerce as well as the state's Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, governor's office and members of the Legislature to increase the state's ease of exporting. NDTO membership increased by 20 percent in 2018 as companies sought education and guidance in an increasingly complex global market.