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Oakdales Exports Highlight Annual Ag Week Lunch
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With homage of “Oakdale Feeds the World” being paid to this year’s Ag Week in Oakdale, over 210 people attended the 40th annual Oakdale Ag Scholarship Luncheon sponsored by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce at the Gene Bianchi Community Center on Thursday, March 21.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Guardiola said the annual scholarship luncheon is to bring awareness to local agriculture industries and is held during National Ag Week. Each year the chamber of commerce gives at least two scholarships to high school seniors that are going in an agriculture related field of business.

“This is a great time for those in the ag industry to get together with topic speakers and for others to learn more about the rich ag industry that Oakdale is made of,” said Guardiola. “The event rose over $2,000 for agriculture scholarships, which is the most in my history with the chamber. The money raised this year will be for (Class of 2014) seniors.”

The small community of Oakdale expands itself all over the world as the speakers told stories of Oakdale products in Turkish bazaars, the growing demand for almonds and walnuts in Asia and Arab nations, and handling the complexity of cargo logistics worldwide.

In 2011, Stanislaus County issued 8,475 export certificates for 94 commodities to 98 countries. In 2012, the number grew to 9500 certificates to over 100 countries.

Stanislaus County Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Steve Logan explained the process known as “phytosanitary” for “plant cleanliness,” of inspection of local crops to have the exported product meet standards for the importing country. Inspectors for the county department of agriculture issue certificates for the US Department of Agriculture assuring there are no pests on outgoing products.

Mike Wright of Ball Metal Containers informed the group that the Oakdale facility that employs 310 local residents can make up to 1 million cans per year, most for local Con-Agra Foods. The cans are used worldwide in the shipping of food products.

Anthony Mello, CFO for Gold River Orchards, offered a brief overview and informative advice on logistics, financing, and using the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Mello stated that Gold River had approximately 55 percent of its product exported in 2005 and for 2012 it had risen to 90 percent.

“Export markets are driving demand,” said Mello, who pointed out that development and a low US dollar were part of the reasons with the Asian market followed by the Middle East leading the way. “There’s a huge demand for walnuts.”

Stacey Humble of the Almond Board of California informed the audience that almond demand and production has had tremendous growth over the last 10 years.

“Everything produced from 2006 on has been sold,” said Humble. “The US is the leading market at 30 percent followed by Asia and Europe.”

Humble pointed out with the development and urbanization in China and India, demand was increasing.

According to the Stanislaus County Agriculture Department, the top 10 commodities for the county were milk, almonds, chicken, cattle, walnuts, silage, tomatoes, fruit nuts, hay, and alfalfa.