When you think of Italy's top exports, you probably think of products like pasta, olive oil, wine, olives, and Parmesan cheese. You might not think of kiwis. Wait, you're thinking. Doesn't New Zealand export most of the world's kiwis? No, actually they don't. Italy exports almost 410 million tons of kiwis each year, surpassing New Zealand's total kiwi exports annually of about 360 million tons.
That's just one example of what many of us naturally think of when we consider a country's top food export. Others include chocolates from Belgium, Chinese silks and Irish ale, but many countries export other foods or products that might surprise you.
TUTORIAL: Investing 101
Greece is a worldwide leader in exporting feta cheese, but in recent years, the traditional Greek cheese has been imported widely from North America - Canada, in particular. Don't dismiss the Canadians; with their vast farmland, they have the resources to export tons of feta cheese each year. Frequently less expensive than feta exported from Greece, the popularity of Canadian feta cheese has increased in recent years. (For related reading, see Companies You Think Are Canadian.)
Many people feel that Scotland gets the blue ribbon for whiskey production. However, Japan has a thriving export in high quality, single-malt whiskey. Over the past decade, Japanese whiskeys have competed alongside Scottish whiskeys in numerous blind tastings, and often scored higher than the Scottish whiskeys. (For related reading, see Why The Yen Is So Strong.)
Many people think that China has the market cornered on ginseng, mainly because it is an herb commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. What many people don't know, however, is that the United States is a major exporter of ginseng, shipping out over 60 tons annually. Most American ginseng is grown in Wisconsin. (For related reading, see The Basics Of Tariffs And Trade Barriers.)
When you think of Ethiopia, you probably think of the desert, but Ethiopia exports a significant amount of bamboo. Currently, Ethiopia has more than one million hectares of land covered with bamboo plantations. The country exports bamboo primarily for building and home products, such as bamboo flooring.
Many people think of fine wine and cheeses when they think of French exports. Did you know that art, antiques, and stamps are also some of France's biggest exports to the United States? It seems like we can't get enough of French refinement; we spend over $2 billion each year on collectible French goods.
Australian Camel Meat
Americans might find it odd to think about eating a kangaroo steak. In Australia, kangaroo steaks are as common as beef steaks over here, and kangaroos are also prized for their leather hides. Surprisingly, Australia might be adding another meat export to its list: camel steaks. The camel population in Australia continues to grow unchecked, as they have no natural predators. As early as 2012, camel steaks could be on the list of the country's top meat exports.
Denmark Christmas Trees
In addition to exporting windmills, Denmark is one of Europe's largest Christmas tree growers. The country exports six to seven million Christmas trees each year.
The Bottom Line
It's always interesting to learn surprising facts about other countries. This short list shows us that it's truly possible to take advantage of a global economy, and perhaps take advantage of some unique products we're making and exporting right here at home. (For related reading, see How Globalization Affects Developed Countries.)