Wednesday, August 18, 2010

$1.9 Billion – Amount Buying Locally Grown Produce Sales Would Pump Into Georgia’s Economy, Study Says

For the first time we can begin to paint a picture of the impact that buying locally grown produce would have on Georgia’s economy, thanks to research conducted by the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

The study, “The Local Food Impact: What if Georgians Ate Georgia Produce?” reports that, if each of the approximately 3.7 million households in the state devoted $10 per week to produce grown in Georgia, more than $1.9 billion would be pumped back into the state’s economy.

And for every 5 percent increase in local produce purchasing, the state would see 345 additional jobs, $43.7 million more in sales, and $13.6 million more in farmer income.

“These findings are some of the strongest demonstrations so far of what a small change in consumer behavior could mean for farmers, and for the entire state,” says Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls. “More than that, I hope this study gets leaders state-wide asking why we don’t see every day foods for our Southern diets growing in the fields of Georgia.”

The study also found that Georgians eat less than the national average of locally grown food. The study’s authors generated scenarios that approximate what agriculture production would be like if Georgians consumed the national average of locally grown food. Currently, direct farmer to consumer sales contribute 132 jobs, $4.5 million in labor income, and $14.4 million in sales.

If Georgia produce farmers increased direct farm-to-consumer produce sales to the national average level, the result would be an overall statewide contribution of 228 jobs, $8.1 million in labor income, and $25.8 million in sales.

In addition, study authors analyzed the potential of individual crops by comparing the amount that average Georgians eat, and the amount that Georgia farmers grow.

They found, for example, the average Georgian eats about 30 pounds of fresh lettuce per year, or about 285 million pounds state-wide. Yet the state produces less than 245,000 pounds per year, which is less than one-tenth of one percent of the amount of lettuce that Georgians consume. Closing that gap would generate an additional $83.6 million in lettuce sales.

Similarly, there are major gaps for other produce, including a $228 million gap for apples, a $62 million gap for bell peppers, a $46 million gap for a broccoli, a $12.8 million gap for carrots, a $124 million gap for pecans, a $235 million gap for tomatoes, and a $93 million gap for watermelon.

“Looking at the quantity of foods directly marketed in Georgia, there is a tremendous opportunity there,” says author study Kent Wolfe, agricultural economist with the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. “Georgia’s food product sales directly to consumers account for a small fraction of their total sales. Farmers get to keep a larger percentage of their food dollar when they sell directly to stores, restaurants or other consumers.”

According to the 2007 Agricultural Census, Georgia’s direct sales accounted for .18 percent of their total sales. Rhode Island sold 9.5 percent of its agricultural products directly to consumers and Massachusetts sold 8.5 percent through direct sales.

To access the entire study, which was funded by the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness along with the other partners, click here.
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