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Advocate staff file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The New Orleans metro area set a record with $30 billion in exports in 2013 and ranked eighth nationally.

Exports from the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner metropolitan area hit a record $30 billion, an increase of 23 percent, or $5.7 billion, from 2012 to 2013 — ranking it eighth in the nation.

Goods exported from Louisiana supported 282,540 jobs in 2013, and the Baton Rouge and Lake Charles metro areas joined New Orleans among the country’s top 50 exporters.

All three of the state’s major port cities reported record exports in 2013 and are among 26 metro areas reaching record export levels, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The New Orleans area accounted for 65 percent of the state’s merchandise exports and was one of 10 metropolitan areas nationally exceeding $25 billion in goods exports last year.

Meanwhile, Baton Rouge ranked No. 45, increasing exports 8 percent to $6.3 billion. Lake Charles ranked No. 49 after boosting exports by 19.2 percent to $5.7 billion.

Key merchandise export categories for Louisiana included petroleum and coal products; agricultural products; chemicals; food and kindred products; and machinery, except electrical. China, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Singapore were the leading destinations for Louisiana exports.

“Big export sales means more revenue, which translate into economic growth and jobs for Louisiana,” said Donald van de Werken, director of the U.S. Commercial Service in New Orleans. “There is a great potential for more exporting — particularly among smaller businesses that have yet to explore their full export potential.”

More than 95 percent of potential consumers live outside the United States, and U.S. companies of every size are exploring those potential opportunities.

The report, “Jobs Supported by Goods Exports from States 2013,” shows Louisiana and the other Top 20 states accounted for 82 percent of the country’s export-supported jobs.

Since mid-2009, exports have driven nearly a third of the country’s economic growth, according to the Commerce Department. Exports account for nearly 14 percent of the economy.

Key merchandise export categories for the New Orleans-Metairie metropolitan area in 2013 included petroleum and coal products, crops, processed foods, chemicals, and beverages and tobacco products. China, Singapore, Mexico, France, and the Netherlands were the leading destinations for New Orleans exports.

Key merchandise categories for Baton Rouge included Canada, Mexico, China, Brazil and the Netherlands. Top export sectors were petroleum and coal products; nondurable manufactured goods; primary metal manufacturing; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; and chemicals.

Key merchandise export categories for the Lake Charles included petroleum and coal products, chemicals, transportation equipment, manufactured products, and electrical equipment. Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, the Netherlands and Canada were the leading destinations for Lake Charles exports.

“This new research demonstrates that exports continue to drive our economic growth and create jobs,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan M. Selig.

President Barack Obama launched the National Export Initiative in 2010. The program helps firms and farmers overcome the hurdles in entering new markets and also offers financing assistance.

The program has helped the United States generate four consecutive years of record exports, capped by 2013’s $2.3 trillion total, according to the Commerce Department. Export goods supported 11.3 million jobs nationwide.