Three takeaways on Arkansas’s food and beverage exports

 October 23, 2018

With the strength of the local agricultural economy and many well-established food and beverage manufacturing companies calling Arkansas home, the Natural State is recognized as both a domestic and worldwide supplier in the global food market.

The map below (see Figure 1) illustrates the wide geographic market that Arkansas’ food and beverage products penetrate. The map shows the top three exporting destinations, in terms of commodity values, in different categories of food and beverage products “Made in Arkansas”. Arkansas’ products are exported to every continent worldwide except Antarctica.

Figure 1: Top 3 countries of Arkansas’ exported food and beverage products

Map_F&BExport_10222018-01-min (1)

Taking a closer look at the data, published by the US Census Bureau, here are three takeaways from the exports of Arkansas’ food and beverage commodities.

The scale differences between exports and imports

To talk about exports, one cannot ignore the imports. Comparing the exporting volumes and those of the importing (see Table 1), it is apparent that Arkansas is exporting-dominant in the food and beverage industry.  This trade surplus is especially significant in the food and kindred products, agricultural products as well as the livestock products.

Table 1: Comparison of Arkansas’s exports and imports.



Total Export Value (2017)

Total Import Value (2017)


Food & kindred products




Agricultural products




Livestock & live stock products







Within the food and kindred products (NAICS code – 311) category, the biggest export subcategory in 2017 was meat and meat packaging products (NAICS code – 3116) of approximately $384.3 million.  The second biggest export of 2017 was grain and oilseed milling products (NAICS code – 3112) of $274.9 million. Interestingly, Arkansas’ biggest imports in NACS code 311 are also in these subcategories. In these same categories, the import values were worth just under $20 million, respectively (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Arkansas’ biggest exports and imports in NAICS code 311 in 2017. Map_F&BExport_Subcategory-01

The differences among exported products

Arkansas exports diverse types of products in food and beverage. However, not all are equal, when it comes to the total values of the exported commodities (see Figure 3). This state’s strongest food and beverage category is food and kindred products, which includes animal foods, grain and oilseed milling products, sugar and confectionery products, vegetable and fruits, dairy products, seafood products, meat and meat packaging products, bakery and snacks and so on. In 2017, Arkansas exported products worth about $746.6 million in this category, a 22.4% increase from 2016.  

The next biggest exports are agricultural products and livestock and livestock products, both of which came close in 2017 with respective values of just under $200 million.

The exporting of beverages was about $73.5 million in 2017. Although it is about 1/10 of the value of the food and kindred products, it shows a 46% increase from 2016.

Figure 3: Arkansas food and beverage exports values by category

Arkansas’ biggest exports partners

Among all the destination countries, the biggest markets for Arkansas’ food and beverage exports are Canada and Mexico (see Figure 4). In 2017, about 36% of all Arkansas agriculture exports went to Mexico, while 18% went to Canada. Positive trade relations may be further enhanced by the newly published United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), as a replacement of the 25-yr-old North American Free Trade Agreement (or NAFTA). Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called the USMCA “good news for Arkansas and Arkansas farmers."

Figure 4: Top destinations of Arkansas food and beverage exports

Arkansas is a strong player domestically and globally in the food and beverage manufacturing industry. To learn more about the about Arkansas’ performance in this area, subscribe to the Food & Beverage Digest newsletter.