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Alabama exports primed for rebound in 2021 after pandemic challenges

In an unparalleled and unpredictable year of turbulence in global trade, Alabama’s exports of goods and services in 2020 totaled $17.13 billion.

Reflecting the declines in export volumes recorded by nearly all states as well as the nation, Alabama’s total exports registered an overall decline of 17.6% in 2020 compared to the prior year, according to new government trade figures.

At the same time, a number of Alabama’s export categories experienced growth in 2020. Additionally, in spite of the global downturn, Alabama export total last year is more than 10 percent higher than the figure for 2010.

“There is reason for optimism as we survey the worldwide demand for quality goods and services, and Alabama’s unique ability to meet that demand,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“Our companies had to perform last year under circumstances that changed regularly and sometimes daily. Despite the challenges, Alabama has maintained and in fact strengthened its reputation as a reliable exporter of products and services,” she added.

Alabama exports
The Port of Mobile, Alabama’s only deepwater port, moves around 54 million tons of cargo per year. It’s a key component of the state’s logistics infrastructure. (Image: APM Terminals

Alabama businesses exported goods and services to 190 countries in 2020.


The Top 5 destinations for Alabama exports in 2020 were:

  • China – $3.1 billion (up 33.9%)
  • Canada – $2.9 billion (down 25.7%)
  • Germany – $2.23 billion (down 28.9%)
  • Mexico – $1.84 billion (down 17.4%)
  • Japan – $701.86 million (down 9.2%)

Alabama exports to China saw a surge in a number of sectors, including motor vehicles, which grew by over 39% to reach nearly $1.7 billion, and aerospace products and parts, which grew by 50.9% to reach $83 million.

Gains were also experienced in exports of paper, agricultural products, minerals and ores, food, machinery, plastics and primary metals.

“Alabama’s business community, long known for its resilience and ability to think outside the box, has been able to pivot and adapt at this unprecedented time and continues to make strides that promise to result in long-term growth,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Moreover, we look forward to seeing exports come back strong in 2021,” he added.


Transportation equipment, which continues to be Alabama’s largest export category, had recorded sustained export growth in recent years, yet declined about 20% in 2020, totaling $8.17 billion.

Besides transportation equipment, Alabama’s top export categories were chemicals $2 billion), paper ($1 billion), minerals and ores ($965 million), and primary metals ($882 million). All experienced declines except for paper, which rose 1 percent from the prior year.

Other categories, however, showed impressive growth during 2020.

Exports of Alabama agricultural products (such as oilseeds/grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts) witnessed an impressive growth rate of 196.7% to total $392.35 million. Livestock (mainly poultry) exports grew by over 10% to reach $108.8 million, and exports of fish rose 44.7% to $4.3 million.

Medical equipment and supplies exports grew by 53.8% to reach $151.5 million.

Alabama’s forest product exports totaled $10.7 million in 2020, an increase of 22.8% over the previous year, while printing and publishing-related exports jumped to $3.3 million, up nearly 29%.

Textile mill products exports rose by over 50% to $22.6 million for the year, while apparel exports experienced a gain of 28.1% to $9 million, according to the new trade figures.


“While the business environment is very different now as compared to a year ago, we know that our vibrant export community in Alabama is up to the challenge,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade for Commerce.

“Those who are ready to forge ahead on a new path, or on the same path as before but in a new environment, have all the ingredients necessary for success. The members of the Export Alabama Alliance remain available as a resource for collaboration in this process,” Lockhart added.

Alabama ranked No. 25 among the states in export volume in 2020, having moved one spot from No. 24 in 2019.


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