Alaska export totals are reported mixed; statistics distort results

Posted: Tuesday, March 27, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska exported some $2.5 billion worth of goods to foreign countries last year, state officials say.

That was a slight drop from 1999's total of $2.6 billion, but the figures are somewhat deceptive because more Alaska oil was shipped to U.S. refineries instead of abroad.

Seafood and other industries saw an increase in exports, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released by the state.

Crude oil exports totaled $288 million in 2000, down 42 percent from 1999. The drop is a reflection of BP's purchase of Atlantic Richfield Company last year.

BP originally sent some of its North Slope crude out of the country for processing, but the oil heads now to the West Coast refineries it bought from Arco.

A dip in mineral exports also is deceptive, officials said.

The huge Red Dog lead and zinc mine near Kotzebue slowed for changes last year that should increase efficiency. Mineral exports should increase this year if zinc prices remain stable, state officials said.

Natural gas exports to Japan held steady at around $145 million.

Despite some trouble spots in the seafood industry, overall exports totaled $1 billion, up 4.5 percent from 1999. That number is low because some seafood warehoused in Seattle before shipment is counted as exports from Washington state, officials said. Canned salmon is one example.

Coal exports to South Korea rose slightly, up to $16.3 million. Fertilizer exports from Agrium's facility at Nikiski jumped 37 percent to $154 million.

Slightly more than half of the state's exports went to Japan last year. Japan took $1.3 billion of Alaska's exports, down 1 percent from 1999.

Exports to Alaska's other four primary trade partners -- Canada, Korea, China and Belgium -- slid from 1999 levels by between 19 and 4 percent. The loss was compensated for by gains in other markets, including Mexico, Germany and France.

Trade with Norway more than doubled to $13.1 million, and trade with Russia more than tripled to hit $9.7 million.

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