US Q1 containerised agricultural exports up 13pc

US agricultural exports increased 12

02 June 2020 - 19:06
US agricultural exports increased 12.5 per cent in the first quarter over the year-ago period as the farm sector continued to diversify its markets for high-volume containerised commodities such as grains and seeds, soybeans, and cotton.

The increase was helped in part by a sharp rise in agricultural exports to China after a disastrous Q1 2019 when exports plunged 57.1 percent amid the tariff war between Washington and Beijing, reports IHS Media.

Tensions eased after the signing of the 'phase one' trade agreement in January, but have since ratcheted up amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The top five markets for US agricultural exports, and nine of the top 10, are in North and South Asia with the farm sector in recent years increasing sales to a number of countries in Asia to meet demand from a growing middle class. The US-China trade war accelerated that trend by motivating agriculture shippers to develop other markets.

Exports to Asia increased 11.6 per cent in the first quarter, according to PIERS, a company within IHS Markit. Exports to China surged 77.4 per cent, while exports to Asia - excluding China - increased 4.4 per cent.

The spike in agricultural exports to China in the first quarter followed two consecutive years of declining exports due to the US-China trade war. During that period, the US agricultural sector aggressively pursued other markets, shown by Q1 exports increasing 19.9 per cent to Taiwan, 24.2 per cent to Vietnam, 93.2 per cent to Pakistan, 85.8 per cent to Turkey, 30.1 per cent to Malaysia, and 50 per cent to Thailand, according to PIERS. Exports to Japan declined 4.8 per cent, while falling 1.6 per cent to South Korea and 21.3 per cent to Indonesia.

Soybean exports to China had been crippled by 25 per cent tariffs, plunging 97.8 per cent in Q1 2019 from the first quarter of 2018. But containerised soybean exports to China came roaring back in the 2020 first quarter, increasing 1,329 per cent year over year. Measured in actual container volumes, US farmers exported only 121 TEU of soybeans to China in Q1 2019 versus 1,727 TEU this year, according to PIERS.

Exports of grains and seeds to China tell a similar story. After plunging 58.6 per cent year over year in Q1 2019, exports to China increased 96.4 per cent in this year's first quarter. Cotton exports followed the same scenario, plunging 51.8 per cent in Q1 2019, but increasing 94.5 per cent in Q1 2010.

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