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USDA Agricultural Trade Outlook- FY 2021 U.S. Exports Forecast Up $11.5 Billion

On Monday, the USDA released its Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, a quarterly report from the Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and Economic Research Service (ERS).  Today’s update includes highlights from the report, which was coordinated by Bart Kenner and Hui Jiang.

The Outlook stated that, “U.S. agricultural exports in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 are projected at $152.0 billion, up $11.5 billion from the August forecast, driven by higher soybean and corn export values.

The projection for soybean exports is up $5.9 billion to a record $26.3 billion due to higher unit values, strong demand from China, and record volumes. Corn exports are forecast up $4.2 billion to $13.2 billion as a result of reduced competition, higher unit values and record volumes.

Wheat exports are projected at $6.2 billion, up $200 million, on higher unit values and slightly larger volumes.”

The Outlook also noted that, “The forecasts in this report are based on policies in effect at the time of the November 10 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) release and the U.S. production forecasts thereof.”

More narrowly, FAS-ERS explained that, “FY 2021 U.S. grain and feed exports are forecast at $35.6 billion, up $4.6 billion from the August forecast on higher corn, sorghum, and wheat exports. Corn exports are forecast at $13.2 billion, up $4.2 billion on expectations of both higher unit values and record volumes. Prospects for exports are bright with reduced competition from Ukraine, where exportable supplies are severely diminished, and anticipated higher demand from China. Sorghum exports are forecast at $1.5 billion, up $100 million on higher unit values as sales and shipments to China remain strong. Feed and fodder exports are unchanged at $8.1 billion. Wheat exports are forecast at $6.2 billion, up $200 million mainly on higher unit values. Volumes are also projected up slightly on increased sales, primarily to China. Global wheat prices have surged in recent months due to dry growing conditions in the U.S., Russia, and Argentina.”

With respect to oilseeds, The Outlook stated that, “FY 2021 oilseed and product exports are forecast at a record $36.3 billion, up $7.2 billion from the August forecast. Soybeans account for most of the gains, as the value is forecast up $5.9 billion to a record $26.3 billion.

A smaller U.S. crop, reduced stocks, and strong demand from China have significantly strengthened U.S. prices. Soybean export volumes are also forecast at record levels due to growing demand in China and reduced near-term competition from Brazil.

Monday’s report added that, “FY 2021 livestock, poultry, and dairy export forecasts are unchanged from the previous forecast at $32.3 billion as lower exports of pork and hides and skins offset increases in beef and poultry. Beef exports are up $200 million to $7.1 billion as higher volumes more than offset a decline in unit values.”

The Outlook also pointed out that, “Pork exports are forecast $200 million lower to $6.8 billion on slowing demand from China.”

With respect to regional trade, FAS-ERS stated that, “The export forecast for China is raised $8.5 billion from August to $27.0 billion, primarily as a result of strong soybean and corn demand and reduced competition from other exporters. With this new forecast, China is projected once again to become the top U.S. agricultural export market, after last holding this position in FY 2017.

“Forecast exports to Japan and South Korea are increased by $600 million and $500 million, respectively, due to higher expected corn and beef exports.

“Exports to Taiwan are forecast $300 million higher on improved corn and soybean prospects.”

Regarding Canada and Mexico, FAS-ERS explained that, “The export forecast for Canada is unchanged from the previous projection of $21.0 billion, as higher corn prospects offset lower expected sales of miscellaneous horticultural products. The export forecast to Mexico is up $200 million to $19.5 billion, largely due to higher expected corn exports.”

Also on Tuesday, Bloomberg writers Kim Chipman and Michael Hirtzer reported that, “The USDA outlook puts China closer to fulfilling its promise to buy $43.5 billion in U.S. agricultural goods in calendar year 2021, part of Beijing’s phase-one trade deal with the Trump administration. But the new estimate still suggests that meeting the target would be an uphill climb as it will require large purchases in the last three months of next year.

“For fiscal year 2020 ended in September, USDA data shows China buying $17.1 billion in farm-related goods, up from an August estimate of $14 billion. That puts the Chinese far behind its pledge to buy $36.5 billion worth of U.S. agricultural products in the current calendar year.”

And a separate Bloomberg News article on Tuesday reported that, “China surpassed for the first time ever an annual corn-import quota set by the World Trade Organization as the second-largest economy continues to buy grain to feed a growing hog population.

“Corn purchases reached 7.82 million metric tons in the year through October, almost double a year ago and exceeding the WTO quota of 7.2 million, according to customs data. Purchases in October reached the second-highest level on record, breaching a million tons for a third month, as the nation’s hog herd recovers from the ravages of African swine fever.”

The Bloomberg article explained that, “China could become the world’s largest corn importer, according to some forecasts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service estimates China could bring in as many as 22 million tons in the 2020-21 season, while the agency itself was more conservative, keeping the figure at 13 million tons. Goldman Sachs Group said China’s corn imports could surge to 33 million tons in 2021.

“China Exceeds WTO Corn Quota for First Time as Demand Soars,” Bloomberg News (November 23, 2020).

“Imports of other staples also rose sharply last month, with wheat, barley, sugar and pork all around double the totals of a year earlier. Global grain prices are soaring as robust Chinese demand coincides with supply disruptions, particularly in South America. A Bloomberg Index of spot grain prices surged last week to the highest since 2014.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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