US Agricultural Trade Update

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Summary--The October-April surplus in U.S. agricultural trade swelled to $9.4 billion, almost $2 billion more than in the same period last year. Year-to-date exports of $32.4 billion are $1.8 billion higher than in the same portion of fiscal 2000, attributed primarily to $1.5 million more in shipments of high-value products. Cumulative imports, on the other hand, slipped by $29 million compared with the 2000 value, as volume and value of coffee shipments continued to decline.

Exports in April 2001 fell by $586 million from March, largely due to $417 million lower soybean exports in the month.

Exports--A $265-million gain to date in bulk commodity exports is due to higher year-to-date soybean shipments. So far this year, shipments of corn, rice, and tobacco have dipped. Bulk export volume increased by a cumulative 1.2 million tons from 2000, helped in part by additional shipments of wheat in April 2001.

Although up in the year-to-date, soybean exports declined sharply in April from March. Increased world consumption and imports of soybeans have boosted U.S. soybean exports so far this year, despite low prices. World demand for soybeans to crush for meal and oil also is up. Soybean exports now equal $4.1 billion and 21.5 million tons, up $400 million and 2.5 million tons from 2000. Although demand from the European Union (EU) is off sharply, shipments to China are up by 2.5 million tons, an 89-percent gain from last year. The significant drop in April soybean shipments reflects an increase in export competition due to the onset of marketing of the record 2000/2001 South American crop.

Year-to-date wheat exports of $1.9 billion are $115 million higher than in the same part of 2000, corresponding to 439,000 additional tons shipped. Although wheat prices are about 13 percent higher than last year, demand from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Indonesia is responsible for the increased volume.

With world corn consumption and imports down somewhat from 2000, U.S. corn exports have fallen in value and volume. Sales to date of $2.6 billion are $131 million lower than last year and volume is down 1.4 million tons. Corn prices have deteriorated close to 2000s low average price, which was almost 30 percent below 1995 levels. Demand for U.S. corn is thus far largely confined to North American Free Trade Agreement partners Mexico and Canada. The volume shipped to Central America also is up in the year to date.

Cotton exports of $1.1 billion are up by a modest $19 million in October-April; volume is down 116,000 tons. Prices remain lower than the average level last year and are now almost half of 1995 levels. Like corn, mainly Mexico and Canada have so far increased purchases of cotton. Volume shipped to South Korea also is up. Southeast Asia and the EU increasingly are supplied by Australia, Uzbekistan, and Franc-zone Africa.

U.S. exports of high-value products (HVP) to date are almost $21 billion. The gain in HVP shipments is attributed to significant growth of livestock products, mainly hides and skins. Shipments of horticulture products also are up, as are live animals and feeds and fodders. Among the horticulture exports, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and sugar and tropical products are up by handsome margins, despite the still strong dollar exchange rate.

Imports--The small decline to date in U.S. agricultural imports to $23 billion primarily reflects a sharp drop in the value of coffee purchases which is off 41 percent from 2000, while volume is down by 16 percent. Cocoa and rubber also are down in both value and volume. Nevertheless, imports of live animals, red meat, vegetables, and malt beverages continue to be larger, reflecting the 8 percent gain in the dollars purchasing power. [Alberto Jerardo, 202-694-5323; <A HREF="mailto:[email protected]]">[email protected]]</A>

The import share of U.S. food consumption is estimated at 9.1 percent in 1998 and 1999, up from 7.4 percent in 1995. The general trend over the past two decades in imports as a share of consumption is upward, although import shares from 1995 rose sharply as the dollars exchange value strengthened. The import share of animal and fish products increased from 3.2 percent in 1980 to 4.5 percent in 1999. These shares are much smaller compared with crops and products, which climbed from 10 percent in the 1980s to 12 percent in 1999. Fish, fruits, vegetables, grain cereals, wine, and beer clearly show growing import shares of consumption. Per capita consumption of these items inched up, while that of animal products declined. (See table 5.)

Next update: July 24, 2001
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