At an Oakdale luncheon Thursday, people in food processing talked about exports involving Stanislaus County:
Walnuts, almonds, tomatoes, salmon
Back up. Salmon?
The Ball Corp. can factory in Oakdale mainly serves the adjacent ConAgra Foods Inc. tomato cannery. But the plant also makes cans for salmon processors in Alaska, Canada and Russia, manager Mike Wright said.
He was one of four people who talked about exports at the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce's annual Ag Scholarship Luncheon. The event raised money for students planning farm-related careers.
The export theme for this year's program was fitting, since this income could help keep the county from exporting its young people to more job-rich areas.
Stanislaus exported 94 commodities to 96 countries in 2011, said Steve Logan, a deputy agricultural commissioner for the county. He talked of how his office certifies that the products do not carry pests or other things that are not supposed to be there.
Wright said the Ball plant will make about 910 million cans this year. Their uses, along with tomatoes and salmon, will include aerosol products and Churchkey beer, the latter in a "retro" steel can rather than aluminum.
Wright also noted that metal cans were invented 200 years ago, prompted by Napoleon Bonaparte.
"He needed a container for his troops to carry food in," he said.
Exports are about 90 percent of the business at Gold River Orchards, a walnut processor north of Riverbank, chief financial officer Anthony Mello said.
He said the market is booming thanks to an emerging middle class in China and elsewhere, along with a weak dollar, which makes U.S. products attractive.
Mello said his company makes the most of the opportunities thanks to a network of brokers around the world, careful fulfillment of orders and a website that can be viewed in six languages.
The Almond Board of California, based in Modesto, has built a healthy image for the nut among consumers, said Stacey Humble, senior director for global marketing.
"And by the way, people like to eat them," she said. "They're crunchy and they taste good."
Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.
WHERE THEY GO
Destination of Stanislaus County farm exports in 2011:
Hong Kong: 14 percent
Spain: 10 percent
Germany: 9 percent
Japan: 8 percent
United Arab Emirates: 7 percent
South Korea: 5 percent
Turkey: 5 percent
China: 4 percent
Netherlands: 3 percent
Other: 35 percent
Source: Stanislaus County agricultural commissioner