New Orleans and Baton Rouge exported a combined $42.4 billion in products and commodities to other countries last year, ranking them among the nation’s trade leaders.

The export performance of New Orleans’ metropolitan area ranked eighth in the nation, the same position the region held in 2013. The Baton Rouge area moved up three slots to No. 42. Both regions achieved double-digit growth in the value of their exports in 2014.

One or more transport systems — including water, road, rail and air — were involved in the shipments, officials of the U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday.

The New Orleans metro exported $34.9 billion in total merchandise, an increase of 16.2 percent over 2013 numbers.

“Metro area exporters are seeing a lot of movement in worldwide export sales,” said Thomas Strauss, network director of the U.S. Commercial Service in New Orleans. “Our office has also seen an uptick in the number of smaller firms and entrepreneurs looking to make new sales abroad.”

NEW ORLEANS: The area was Louisiana’s dominant exporter last year, accounting for 67.6 percent of the state’s shipments to foreign customers. Petroleum and coal products accounted for $14.2 billion of the area’s exports. Agricultural product shipments totaled another $14.1 billion.

China paid $5.7 billion for goods imported from the New Orleans area. Customers in Mexico were the next biggest spenders, $2.4 billion.

St. Charles Parish was the New Orleans area’s largest exporter, moving $10.2 billion of products to foreign buyers.

“Greater New Orleans continues to grow as a national leader for exports,” said Michael Hecht, president and chief executive officer of Greater New Orleans Inc. “Combined with the unprecedented level of foreign investment in the region, it is clear that New Orleans is back on the path to being an international hub for business.”

BATON ROUGE: The metro area shipped $7.5 billion in products to foreign markets last year, an increase of 20.2 percent over its 2013 total.

Jay Hardman, executive director at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, said that facility saw a huge increase in its volume of grain shipments last year.

“We did 4.1 million tons in 2014,” Hardman said, noting that total dwarfed the 577,600 tons of grain handled at the port in 2013.

Much of that increase was due to shipments by Louis Dreyfus Commodities, a European grain exporter, Hardman said.

Including Dreyfus’ commodities, Hardman said, 2014 shipments of a variety of products from the port totaled a combined 9.2 million tons, more than double the tonnage for 2013.

Growth of exports is expected to continue at the port through 2016.

By the end of this year, Hardman noted, Houston-based Genesis Energy will have finished construction of its oil storage tanks and import/export terminal at the Baton Rouge port.

Hardman said Genesis then could move as many as 33 million barrels of crude oil and other petroleum products through the port annually.

Drax Biomass Inc. has completed a $40 million wood pellet storage facility at the port and is preparing to make regular shipments to a large power plant in England that is converting coal-fired generators to wood-burning operations.

“We’re excited here,” Hardman said. “I’m very optimistic about the future.”

Of the Baton Rouge metro’s $7.5 billion in exports last year, $4.1 billion was in the form of chemicals. Petroleum and coal products accounted for another $2.3 billion.

The region’s largest sales totaled $1.3 billion to customers in Mexico. Buyers in China paid another $633 million. Others in Canada paid $582 million. Another $534 million in products were shipped to Brazil. Shipments to Belgium were valued at $466 million.

The largest-volume exporters in the Baton Rouge metro last year were Ascension Parish, $1.5 billion; West Baton Rouge Parish, $1.5 billion; and Iberville Parish, $1.2 billion.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker released the 2014 export report Thursday. She noted exports for all of the nation’s metropolitan areas totaled more than $1.4 trillion in 2014, an increase of $36 billion over the previous year.

“More and more U.S. businesses understand that 96 percent of their potential customers live outside the United States and that selling their world-class goods in the global marketplace is critical to their bottom line,” Pritzker said.