South Florida's top exports, imports trade at record levels in recovery
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Many of the Miami Customs District's top exports and imports traded at record levels in the first month of 2011 as Miami International Airport saw more foreign and domestic cargo move on and off its runways, though not at pre-recession levels.
Trade through the district, which stretches from Port St. Lucie to the Florida Keys, in 2010 made a full recovery, climbing to more than $95 billion, past 2008's high of $90.2 billion.
The region's top import in January was gold, with $273 million coming in, 26.6% more than the same period last year, according a WorldCity analysis of US Census data.
The volume set a new high, and also may add insight to the current state of the world economy.
"Gold imports and scrap of precious metal exports are still running at record levels, suggesting continued pessimism about economic conditions," said WorldCity President Ken Roberts.
Since the onset of the recession large quantities of gold have been moving out of Latin America, through Miami and on to Switzerland. Analysts are pegging it as investors hedging against commodity volatility.
Meanwhile, imports of cell phone equipment, aircraft parts, medical instruments and fresh-cut flowers all hit record levels.
The most interesting increase, according to Mr. Roberts, is the nearly 12,000% jump in electronic integrated circuit imports to more than $165 million in January.
"They are coming from Costa Rica and are the result of increased demand rather than a change in trade lane," he said. "To me, that suggests business confidence regarding demand for technology."
In fact, more than 50% of the region's top imports set records compared to prior years.
On the export side, only heavy machinery parts, televisions and camcorders, motor vehicles, computer parts and electronic circuits didn't set all-time records.
Aircraft part exports held the top spot, with $472.2 million moving out of the region in January, surpassing the $452.2 million In January last year. Other record-breakers include computers, cell phone equipment, medical instruments and medicines.
Overall cargo traffic through the airport was up about 6% in January from 147,000 short tons during the same month last year to more than 156,000, according to the Florida Foreign Trade Association. Of that, domestic cargo rose a little more than 4.3% to 17,620 short tons while international cargo climbed 6.4% to 138,586.
Those volumes are still less than what passed through the airport during the same period in 2008 but if they remain constant could surpass 2007 and 2008 year-end totals.
"Using 2008 as a base year, January 2011 total domestic cargo is down 21.02% and international cargo down 2.91%," association Vice President Joe Smith wrote in a fax. "Based on 2010 end-of-the-year figures, MIA should be able to surpass both 2007 and 2008… figures and set a new record in 2011."
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