Despite a rebound in farm exports over the past three months, China\'s top agricultural export province expects to register flat or negative growth for the whole year due to sluggish global demand and surging costs. Exports of agricultural products from Shandong Province, which account for a quarter of the country\'s total, reached 13.6 billion U.S. dollars in the first 11 months of 2012, down 2 percent year on year, Shandong\'s provincial department of agriculture said in a statement Tuesday. Dwindling demand in major markets, soaring prices, market competition from Southeast Asian nations and mounting trade frictions have all weighed upon Shandong\'s agricultural exports, said Zhang Li, an official supervising international cooperation at the provincial department of agriculture. Shandong\'s farm exports were largely on a downward trend over the first eight months, with the exception of rebounds in February and June. The return to growth in the September-November period hardly made up for the lost ground, and the rate of increase has slowed over the past two months. \"If the growth rate in December is flat from November, our total exports in 2012 will exceed 15 billion U.S. dollars, roughly the same as last year,\" Zhang said. The fourth quarter is traditionally the hot season for agricultural exports, as market demand usually picks up between Christmas and the Spring Festival. Despite the gloomy outlook, Shandong is expected to keep its title as the country\'s largest agricultural exporter. It will also maintain its position as the top importer of farm products for a second consecutive year, she added. Shandong has led the country in farm exports for 12 consecutive years. In 2011, its farm exports hit 15.4 billion U.S. dollars, or 25.3 percent of China\'s total. Meanwhile, national data indicate slow growth in China\'s farm exports this year. China\'s farm exports rose 4.5 percent year on year to 50.6 billion U.S. dollars in the first ten months, while imports surged 23.7 percent to 92.3 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.