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Official: Poultry is No. 1 food product shipped from state’s ports

POSTED: August 1, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Leo G. Beckmann, manager of legislative affairs for the Georgia Ports Authority

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An executive of the Georgia Ports Authority told the Rotary Club of Gainesville on Monday that poultry products represented one of the top exports shipped through the state’s coastal ports.

At a luncheon at the Gainesville Civic Center, Leo G. Beckmann, manager of legislative affairs for the authority, said poultry was the top food product shipped out of the ports.

Figures released this week by the ports authority showed 57,622 TEUs of poultry products were shipped out of Georgia in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. TEU stands for Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit shipping container. That was a 49.1 percent increase over fiscal year 2007.

Poultry trailed wood pulp, paper and fabrics, including raw cotton, in shipments from the state’s giant ports at Savannah and Brunswick.

"There are several things that have happened in the course of the last 10 years that allowed us to continue to grow our cargo," Beckmann said. "Most important to Savannah was the West Coast strikes of ’01 and ’02. This forced the cargo to go from the West Coast to the East Coast."

He said some of the business continued to come to Georgia long after the strike was settled.

"The port of Savannah is the fastest-growing port in America," he said, adding that the ports in Georgia are feeling the effects of the economic slowdown, but not to the level of other U.S. ports.

Abit Massey, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, said Georgia ports are vital to the state’s robust poultry export trade.

"We’re exporting over 15 percent of all chickens," Massey said. "It’s exciting when we have ports in our state that handle those exports that go all over the world."

Philip Wilheit, a member of the state Board of Economic Development, said the ports, along with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, are the economic engine that drives the state. "I think we take it for granted that our ports are there, because we don’t see them every day," Wilheit said. "What we get from the ports is vital, with poultry being one of the top five commodities they export. Not to mention their balance of trade, we export more than we import."

The Georgia Ports Authority handled more than 2.6 million TEUs in fiscal year 2008, a 14.9 percent increase over 2007, setting a record for containers handled at the port of Savannah. The ports authority’s total tonnage for all terminal facilities, including Bainbridge, Brunswick, Columbus and Savannah, surpassed 25.8 million tons, a 17.5 percent increase over 2007, which is also a record for the authority.


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