Colorado’s agricultural exports increased 20 percent to $718 million in the first seven months of 2011, led by increases in beef, hides, dairy and grains.

“Agricultural exports continue to play an important part in our state’s economic recovery,” said Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar. “So far this year, we’ve seen an additional $118 million from the ag export sector, and that is directly attributor to our producers.”

Colorado’s top agricultural product is beef, which increased 21 percent for a total export value of $389.9 million. Hides rose 20 percent to $131 million. Dairy products are the third highest product, at $28 million, but that represents a 51 percent increase from 2010.

Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea and Russia all buy Colorado beef – with increases in sales to Asian countries keeping beef exports high.

“We have seen phenomenal growth in Asia; beef markets grew to 36 percent of Colroado’s export market for an increase of 112 percent over the past two years,” said Salazar. “Asia’s growing portion of Colorado’s total beef exports illustrates the importance of U.S. trade negotiations to remove the restrictions on beef to Japan, and negotiating an opening of China to Colorado’s beef market.”

Other important export trends in agriculture:

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– Millet exports increased 77 percent to $9.7 million in the first seven months of 2011.

– Live cattle increased 122 percent in the same timeframe.

– Direct corn exports have grown in recent years. Mexico is now purchasing Colorado corn, increasing their exports by 258 percent, sending $11.6 million in corn to Mexico.

Overall, Colorado companies exported agricultural products to a total of 105 countries.