June 02, 2004
Seafood led the way, accounting for $567 million, or 72%, of the total $789 million in exports through March. The sale of fish roe increased $68 million, or 39%, over first quarter exports of last year, primarily from strong sales of pollock roe in Western Alaska.
Stable prices and good harvest volumes have helped fishermen in this important early season catch, Murkowski said. Frozen cod also climbed dramatically, up $21 million or 62%, with strong sales reported to Japan, China, Norway and Portugal. Crab exports rose $8 million in the quarter with exports to China doubling.
"More consumers around the world are realizing the superior quality and taste of natural fresh Alaska seafood over the lower priced foreign farmed fish," according to Murkowski. "This product differentiation is beginning to allow Alaska fishermen some pricing power, not only with the high-end restaurant buyers, but also in the broader seafood markets."
Energy sales of light petrochemicals and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan were $22 million greater than this time last year. Japan continues to be Alaska's leading trade partner, purchasing 42% of all of Alaska's exports, according to Mark Edwards, economist with the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development. About $93 million of the $147 million in first quarter growth was a result of increased purchases from Japan.
Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) rose 7% in the fourth quarter of 2003 and 5.6% in the first quarter of 2004. This is compared to the less than 1% average growth for the last five years. A sustained Japanese economic recovery bodes well for Alaskan exports, the governor said.
Sales of fertilizer, a natural gas byproduct, are on par with last year's exports at this time. It accounted for $44 million in sales in the first quarter of 2004.
Trade in gold to Switzerland continues its strong performance, showing $25 million in exports in only three months. This is slightly lower than the $27 million at this time in 2003, but still considerably higher than historical international sales of less than $1 million in the first quarter over the last ten years. Gold prices have declined slightly from highs of over $400 an ounce to its current price of $385 an ounce.
Mineral exports of lead and zinc remain important, climbing $6 million for a total of $25 million in the first quarter of 2004. This is 32% above the first three months of 2003.
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