ANCHORAGE - Alaska exports increased last year by almost 9 percent to $2.7 billion, according to Gov. Frank Murkowski.
Seafood is the state's largest export category, and sales rose by almost 4.5 percent to $1.4 billion. Japan and South Korea were the top two destinations.
Total sales - including seafood, energy products and metals - were up by more than $222 million in 2003 compared to the year before, Murkowski announced Wednesday.
Energy exports, particularly natural gas exported from the Conoco Phillips liquefaction plant at Nikiski, rose 8.7 percent to $305 million. Alaska oil generally is not exported.
Exports of minerals including zinc and lead rose by 9 percent to almost $414 million, and exports of fertilizer products made at the Agrium Inc. plant near Kenai rose 23 percent to about $199 million.
Wood exports grew 18 percent to $152 million and exports of precious metals doubled to $94 million, according to the governor's office.
State figures released Wednesday show only the dollar value of exports, so it wasn't clear whether higher prices or changes in volume drove the increases.
"It is very encouraging to see Alaska's export numbers retain their positive rate of growth throughout the year," Murkowski said. "International trade brings more new revenue to our state, creates jobs in our economy and brings hope for thousands of Alaskans."
For exports overall, Japan was the main customer for Alaska goods, accounting for more than $1 billion of the $2.7 billion total last year. Seafood makes up two-thirds of Japan's total demand.
South Korea was the second largest customer, increasing its imports of Alaska products by 36 percent to $567 million, the governor's office said.
The next biggest buyers of Alaska goods are Canada, China and Germany.
Japan long has been a dominant destination for Alaska salmon, as well as pollock, crab, cod, herring and other species. But the landscape has changed in recent years in Japan. The country has endured a long economic recession, Alaska salmon has been shoved aside by less expensive farm-raised fish from Chile, and Japan's seemingly insatiable taste for all things seafood has begun to wane.
"Japan remains our single largest export market, but the importance of Japan is diminishing and it has been for several years," Chris McDowell, who runs the Salmon Market Information Service in Juneau, told the Anchorage Daily News.
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