Commissioner’s AgriCorner: Expansion of the Panama Canal

Florida exports $4 billion in agricultural commodities each year to more than 140 other countries, with many of the products passing through the Panama Canal. Next year, the expansion of the Panama Canal will be complete, representing one of the most revolutionary changes in global logistics since the canal was built a century ago. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]

The newly expanded Panama Canal will double the total cargo volume capacity of the existing canal. In addition to the two lanes of the Canal already ferrying ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific and vice versa, a third lane will open that can accommodate wider, deeper ships carrying more goods around the world.

In preparation for the post-Panamax era, Florida has invested significant resources in dredging our ports to accommodate the massive ships that will pass through the Panama Canal. More than $200 million of state and local funds has been invested to deepen the Port of Miami to more than 50 feet to accommodate the larger, deeper ships. Four cranes, each more than 25 stories tall, were installed in the port after a three month journey from Shanghai. These cranes are required to unload containers from the massive ships expected to enter the port in 2015.

The expansion of the Panama Canal and the enhanced capabilities of the Port of Miami present significant opportunities for Florida to increase its agricultural trade with the world.

With this in mind, I plan to travel to Panama this month with a delegation representing Florida’s ports, agriculture industry and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. We will meet with trade organizations and government officials, and tour of the canal project to learn how Florida agriculture can capitalize on the opportunities the expansion brings.

In addition, the trade development mission is an opportunity to increase trade with Panama itself. Florida exported more than $168 million in agricultural products— including citrus juice, tomatoes, berries and sugar— to Panama in 2012, making it the state’s fifth largest agricultural trading partner.

Panama has one of the fastest growing economies in the Western Hemisphere. The country’s agriculture imports have doubled between 2006 and 2012, to more than $1.6 billion annually. Our trip aims to increase Florida growers, producers and packers’ access to the fast-growing Panama market.

Thank you for allowing me to represent Florida’s $100 billion agriculture industry, and I look forward to updating you on the success of our trade development mission to Panama when we return.



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