Business & Real Estate

California exports continue to sputter at start of 2016

California exports continued to sputter in February.

The state’s merchandise exports had a total value of $12.13 billion in February, down nearly 3.5 percent from $12.55 billion a year earlier, according to a report from Beacon Economics, a consulting firm with offices in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Analysts said the February numbers, based on U.S. Commerce Department data, reflected slowing economies worldwide and falling prices, particularly in commodities.

Sometimes, farmers just can’t catch a break.

Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics’ international trade adviser

Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon, noted: “National numbers show that the prices exporters are receiving for their goods have fallen by 7 percent. On that basis, real exports are up. But while volumes are steady, bottom lines are still being hurt by lower prices, particularly in a state that is as expensive to do business in as California.”

“Considering the way the global economy has been wobbling of late and the falling prices many California exporters are getting for their products, February’s numbers weren’t too shabby,” said Jock O’Connell, Beacon’s international trade adviser.

Beacon said state exports of manufactured goods in February fell 3.8 percent, to $7.72 billion from $8.02 billion a year earlier. Exports of nonmanufactured goods – chiefly agricultural products and raw materials – were down 7 percent, to $1.46 billion in February compared with $1.57 billion last year.

“We are seeing year-over-year declines in the dollar value of many agricultural products exported from California,” O’Connell said. “With (California) ports operating with reasonable efficiency this year, we might have expected a rebound in farm trade. However, commodity prices have fallen sharply. Sometimes, farmers just can’t catch a break.”

Beacon said re-exports slipped 0.4 percent year-over-year, to $2.95 billion from $2.96 billion.

On the import side, California took in $31.41 billion in February, up nearly 20 percent from $26.25 billion in February 2015. The sharp increase was attributed to labor disruptions at California ports last year.

Some goods entering California go to other states, so exports are considered a more accurate measure of the state’s trade health.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover