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China’s soybean imports from around the world expected to dip after a long-running expansion

Monday, August 27, 2018

Recent declines in China’s use of soybeans reduced expectations for the total volume of soybeans China imports for the 2018/19 marketing year. By early July, the price of U.S. soybeans imported by China spiked after the Government raised import tariffs on U.S. soybeans by 25 percentage points. Also, because of a 10-percent decline in the value of China’s currency (the renminbi) relative to the U.S. dollar since April, the relative prices of U.S.-sourced soybeans have risen. Chinese soybean processors have seen their profit margins decline because of (1) the direct effects of the higher tariffs and U.S./China exchange rate changes and (2) the indirect effects of these same factors, as other soybean exporters, such as Brazil, experience higher demand and, in response, may raise their prices. The cumulative imports for October 2017 to July 2018 virtually matched the year-earlier level at 77 million tons, and imports are expected to total 96 million tons by September, a modest increase from the previous year. In 2018/19, the volume of soybeans imported to China are expected to decline relative to a year earlier, totaling 95 million tons. This would be the first annual decline in Chinese soybean imports since 2003/04. This chart appears in the ERS Oil Crops Outlook newsletter released in August 2018.

U.S. soybean prices reach a 9-year low

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Soybean prices collapsed in June under the combined pressure of favorable U.S. growing conditions, an increase in sown acreage, large old-crop stocks, and China’s tariff hike on imports from the United States. On June 1, cash soybean prices for central Illinois were $9.86 per bushel but, by early July, had plummeted to just above $8.00. Not since December 2008 have prices for the crop been that low. Following China’s recent implementation of an additional 25-percent ad valorem tariff on U.S. soybeans, USDA lowered its 2018/19 export forecast by 250 million bushels this month to 2.04 billion. Lowered export expectations—along with a very bright outlook for soybean crop conditions and for estimated acreage harvested—lowered prices. As a result of the outlook for crop conditions and for estimated acreage harvested, USDA raised its production forecast to 4.31 billion. Only last year’s record harvest of 4.39 billion bushels would be larger. Provided the crop continues to develop without major difficulties, post-harvest prices this fall are likely to be even lower. This chart appears in the ERS Oil Crops Outlook newsletter released in July 2018.

Brazil’s rising soybean exports drive production growth

Monday, June 25, 2018

Brazil is a leading global producer and the world’s top exporter of soybeans. Long the second-largest producer following the United States, Brazil’s soybean output is currently forecast to exceed that of the United States by the 2018/19 marketing year. If realized, Brazilian soybean production will have risen by over 22 percent since 2015/16. Almost all of the increased production has made its way to the export market, which has risen 34 percent over the same time. In addition to significant growth in sales to China, Iran, and Russia, domestic conditions in 2018 have also driven up exports. The Brazilian real has lost 20 percent of its value since January 1 2018, and the country experienced a strike by the nation’s truck drivers in May. Since Brazil is highly dependent on truck deliveries, the work stoppage severely disrupted local supply chains. Despite road blockages that also stalled deliveries to ports, Brazilian soybean shipments in May reached a record high. Uninterrupted exports were made possible by an accumulation of soybean stocks at ports prior to the strike. Lengthening ship queues suggest that even more soybeans could have been shipped in the absence of disruptions to port deliveries. This chart appears in the ERS Oil Crops Outlook: June 2018.

U.S. exports of whole soybeans are forecast to grow in 2018/19

Monday, May 21, 2018

The United States is a leading global producer and exporter of soybeans. Oilseed and oilseed product exports, particularly soybeans, represent a significant source of demand for U.S. producers and make a large net contribution to the U.S. agricultural trade balance. In the 2018/19 marketing year (September–August), total U.S. exports of soybeans (whole, meal, and oil) are expected to increase by over 8 percent provided normal trade relations with other countries, which if realized, would mark a return to growth after a modest contraction expected for 2017/18. (Exports had increased in the previous 5 marketing years.) Whole soybean exports, which are expected to increase 11 percent in 2018/19 over 2017/18, are responsible for the increased forecast in total soybean exports in 2018/19. Relatively small declines are expected in 2018/19 over 2017/18 in exports of soybean meal and oil—the principal components of crushed soybeans. Although soybean exports from the United States have grown over the past 25 years, the share of U.S. exports in global oilseeds trade has declined. Significant expansion in soybean output by countries like Brazil and Argentina have reduced the U.S. shares of global exports and production. Brazil surpassed the United States as the world’s leading exporter of soybeans in 2011/12 and is expected to exceed U.S. production for the first time in 2018/19. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the ERS Oil Crops Outlook released in May 2018.

Record acreage and high yields raise U.S. peanut harvest to an all-time high

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Peanuts are expected to be especially plentiful in the 2017/18 marketing year, as record acreage of planted peanuts and high yields per acre are on track to produce the largest peanut harvest of all time. If realized, the 7.6 billion pounds of peanuts expected would exceed the previous record of 6.7 billion pounds in 2012. The 2017 forecast predicts a significant change from 2016 with 37 percent more peanuts produced. The projected growth is due to a 15-percent increase in yield per acre and a 19-percent increase in acreage harvested. The record production will likely mean a significant increase in peanut exports, which had already doubled since 2011. At the State level, record high yields are forecast in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. If realized, production in Georgia and South Carolina will be the highest on record. Georgia is the largest producer of peanuts in the United States and is responsible for growing roughly 50 percent of all the country’s peanuts. This chart is drawn from the ERS Oil Crops Outlook, released in November 2017.

Peanut supplies may surge with a fourth consecutive acreage increase

Friday, August 4, 2017

Peanuts have always been a popular American food item, from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to baseball stadium snacks. But not since 1991 have there been more acres of peanuts planted in the United States as there are now. The 1.8 million acres planted for the 2017/18 marketing year is the third highest on record. Since 2014, planted acreage has increased each year, after mostly trending downward for over 20 years. During that time, production did not fall due to increasing yields per acre, allowing farmers to dedicate less land to peanuts while maintaining steady output. The growth in acreage over the past 4 years has led to a sharp increase in the amount of peanuts on the market. If expectations are met, the 2017/18 peanut crop is expected to reach 6.45 billion pounds. This would only rank behind the 2012/13 record harvest of 6.75 billion pounds. Much of these gains have led to an increase in U.S. peanut exports, which have doubled since 2011. This chart is drawn from the ERS Oil Crops Outlook newsletter released in July 2017.

South American countries often exported their soy products to Asia and European Union

Thursday, June 29, 2017

To meet the increasing demand for agricultural commodities, forestland is frequently converted into crop fields or pasture, especially in developing countries. For example, deforestation in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay is linked with the production of soybeans (and beef). However, the majority of soybean production in these countries is consumed elsewhere, especially in China, the rest of Asia, and the European Union. Brazil and Argentina, the largest Latin American producers, exported an average of 67 percent of their soy production outside of South America. By contrast, the United States consumed 50 percent of its production and exported 44 percent of its production outside of North America. The soy product exported varied with the country. For example, Argentina exported about 8 million tons of soybeans and 22 million tons of soybean meal; by comparison, Brazil exported about 43 million tons of soybeans and 13 million tons of soybean meal. This chart appears in the ERS report International Trade and Deforestation: Potential Policy Effects via a Global Economic Model, released April 2017.

Contrasting area planted records projected for soybeans and wheat

Monday, May 1, 2017

The latest projections for crop area plantings in 2017 indicate contrasting records for soybeans and wheat. Soybean plantings for 2017 are projected to reach 89.5 million acres, a new record-high. In contrast, forecast wheat plantings of 46.1 million acres would be a record low, if realized. Taken together, these planted area projections indicate that many farmers are switching from wheat to soybean production in several key wheat-growing States, including Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas. Since 2011, soybean acreage in these seven States has expanded by one-third, while wheat area has contracted. Farmers are likely responding to the higher prices and potential returns associated with soybeans, after multiple years of wheat prices trending lower. For the 2016/17 marketing year, the projected midpoint season-average farm-gate price for soybeans was $9.55 per bushel, slightly higher than the 2015/16 average of $8.95 per bushel. The all-wheat price for the 2016/17 marketing year is projected at $3.85 per bushel, more than a dollar below the 2015/16 season-average price and the lowest since 2005/06. This chart appears in the ERS Wheat Outlook report released in April 2017.

Domestic use of canola, corn, and palm oil growing at a faster rate than soybean oil

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

In 2016, soybean oil dominated the domestic use of edible oils and fats. Just over 50 percent of oil usage that year was sourced from soybeans. Interestingly, this is the lowest share of domestic use for soybean oil since at least 2003. Additional edible oils have grown in usage over this period. Canola, corn, and palm oils have each grown at a faster rate than soybean oil. Since 2011, canola, corn, and palm oil usage has grown 66, 57, and 21 percent, respectively. Over the same period, soybean oil use increased by 11 percent. The growth in canola oil consumption can be partially attributed to the thriving Canadian industry, which is the third largest producer in the world. The United States imported 1.9 million metric tons of canola oil from Canada in 2016, nearly half of the country’s total production. The growth of corn oil has been the result of expanded oil extraction from corn distillers grains and is likely primarily used for biodiesel fuel production. Global palm oil production has nearly doubled over the last 10 years and has resulted in a much larger export market, which has contributed to growing U.S. imports. Low prices at the wholesale level may help explain the appeal of canola and palm oil relative to other oils, but soybean oil remains the most price competitive. This chart is drawn from data in the annual ERS Oil Crops Yearbook tables updated in March 2017.

Oilseed prices continued downward trajectory in the 2015/16 marketing year

Monday, January 30, 2017

Oilseeds like soybeans, canola, and peanuts are strong substitutes for one another, particularly when used to produce cooking oils. As a result of their substitutability, their prices often move in similar directions. The rise in one oilseed’s price typically drives up the price of its alternatives. For example, if the price of soybeans increases, alternative oilseeds, like canola, would be more attractive to buyers. Subsequently, the price for canola would likely increase too. Prices for all major oilseeds have been moving steadily downward since peaking between 2011 and 2013. Data from the 2015/16 marketing year show that oilseed prices haven’t been this low since at least 2009/10. The price reduction for farmers is largely attributed to record domestic and global production of soybeans, peanuts, and other oilseeds in recent years. This chart is drawn from data discussed in the latest Oil Crops Outlook report released in January 2017.

Record yields driving soybean production gains

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In October, USDA raised its 2016/17 forecast of the U.S. average soybean yield to a record 51.4 bushels. Coupled with a harvested acreage estimate of 83 million acres, the higher yield boosts forecasted soybean production by 68 million bushels to 4.3 billion. The largest production gains are due to higher acreage and yield indications for North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois. These increases more than offset reductions in acreage and production for Minnesota, Iowa, and Tennessee. The 4.3 billion bushel forecast would be a record for U.S. production, while 2014/15 and 2015/16 production would become the second and third highest harvests, respectively. Much of the production gains are attributable to significant gains in yields which have increased from 38.1 bushels per acre in 2000/01 to 48 bushels per acre in the 2015/16 marketing year. Growing conditions for soybeans this year were nearly ideal. Spring planting for soybeans proceeded without any major delays. During the summer growing season, the Midwestern soybean-growing region benefited from much-above-average rainfall and there were no prolonged dry or hot spells to stress crops. Gains in production are leading to higher forecasted ending stocks and increases in exports, reducing downward pressure on domestic soybean prices. This chart uses data from the ERS Oil Crops Yearbook dataset and the ERS Oil Crops Outlook report released in October 2016.

After surpassing butter in the 1950s, Americans' per capita consumption of margarine now below that of butter

Monday, July 18, 2016

For the first half of the 20th century, supplies of butter available for U.S. consumers to eat (a proxy for consumption) averaged 16 pounds per person per year, compared with 2.8 pounds of margarine. Shortages and rationing of butter during World War II led consumers and food processors to substitute margarine for butter. After the war, many earlier public policies and restrictions on margarine (including restrictions on coloring margarine yellow) were relaxed, and some consumers had become more accustomed to the taste of margarine. Expanding soybean oil supplies contributed to margarine’s lower price relative to butter. Between 1942 and 1972, butter availability fell from 16.4 to 5.0 pounds per person per year, while annual per person availability of margarine increased from 2.9 to 11.1 pounds. In the second half of the 1970s, margarine availability began trending downward, more steeply starting in 1994. By 2005, margarine availability had fallen below butter availability, despite butter’s higher price. In 2013, per capita availability of butter was 5.5 pounds. Butter may owe part of its recent increase in popularity to concerns about trans fats in margarine and suggestions that saturated fat is not as unhealthy as once thought. This chart appears in “Butter and Margarine Availability Over the Last Century” in the July 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

U.S. corn and soybean farmers use a wide variety of glyphosate resistance management practices

Monday, May 2, 2016

For weed control, U.S. corn and soybean farmers rely on chemical herbicides which were applied to more than 95 percent of U.S. corn acres in 2010 and soybean acres in 2012. Over the course of the last two decades, U.S. corn and soybean farmers have increased their use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in herbicide products such as Roundup) and decreased their use of herbicide products containing other active ingredients. This shift contributed to the development of over 14 glyphosate-resistant weed species in U.S. crop production areas. Glyphosate resistance management practices (RMPs) include herbicide rotation, tillage, scouting for weeds, and other forms of weed control. In some cases, ERS found that usage rates for RMPs increased from 1996 to 2012. In other cases, RMP use dropped from 1996 to 2005/06 but increased as information about glyphosate-resistant weeds spread. For example, herbicides other than glyphosate were applied on 93 percent of planted soybean acres in 1996, 29 percent in 2006, and then 56 percent in 2012. This chart is found in the April 2016 Amber Waves finding, “U.S. Corn and Soybean Farmers Apply a Wide Variety of Glyphosate Resistance Management Practices.”

Verified non-genetically engineered products see steady increase since 2010

Monday, April 4, 2016

Genetically engineered (GE) crops are now widely used to produce breakfast cereals, corn chips, soy protein bars, and other processed foods and food ingredients, and a market for foods produced without crops grown from GE seed has emerged. The Non-GMO Project is a private group that provides verification services for products made according to best practices for genetically modified organism (GMO) avoidance. In 2014, the Non-GMO Project Verified label appeared on nearly 12,500 products with unique universal product codes (UPC), up from fewer than 1,000 in 2010. Many of the food products verified under this protocol, and bearing the Non-GMO Project Verified butterfly logo, are not at risk of GE contamination: that is, they do not contain corn, soybeans, or other crops for which GE varieties are available. Also, over half of the products verified under this protocol are certified organic under USDA’s organic regulations, which already prohibit the use of genetic engineering in organic production and processing. Non-GMO Project Verified labeling currently accounts for most of the conventionally grown U.S. products that are non-GE verified. This chart appears in the ERS report, Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops, February 2016.

U.S. soybean exports have decreased

Friday, November 20, 2015

Despite abundant supplies, U.S. soybean exports for the current marketing year (September/August) are forecast down from last year, due largely to greater competition from Brazil. Soybean production in Brazil is forecast to reach a record 100 million metric tons this year. Historically, U.S. soybean exports peak between September and December, while Brazil’s export season peaks between March and June. Brazil’s record production in 2015 is extending exports later into the calendar year, putting them into direct competition with U.S. exports. The result has been a decline in U.S. soybean export sales commitments for the current marketing year, which were down nearly 20 percent through October 2015, compared to the previous year. U.S. export sales commitments to China, the world’s largest soybean importer, were down 33 percent over the same period, while sales commitments to the rest of the world are nearly unchanged from last year. Export sales commitments are sales transactions reported by U.S. exporters, including transactions for future shipments, whereas export data only reports shipments that have already occurred. Hence, sales commitments are useful for forecasting U.S. export volumes. With a large domestic crop and decreased export sales, U.S. ending stocks are expected to grow. This chart is based on the November 2015 Oil Crops Outlook.

Corn and soybean returns are highest when growers and their neighbors manage glyphosate resistance

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Glyphosate, also known by the trade name Roundup, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. Widespread and exclusive use of glyphosate, without other weed control strategies, can induce resistance to the herbicide by controlling susceptible weeds while allowing more resistant weeds to survive, propagate, and spread. Resistant weed seeds can disperse across fields—carried by animals, equipment, people, wind, and water. Consequently, controlling weed resistance depends on the joint actions of farmers and their neighbors. ERS analyses evaluated the long-term financial returns to growers who adopt weed control practices that aim to slow resistance to glyphosate, and compared those returns when neighboring farmers also manage to slow resistance. Projected net returns (annualized over 20 years) for growers who manage resistance generally exceed returns for growers who ignore resistance; they are even higher when neighbors also manage resistance. Projected net returns for growers with neighbors who also manage resistance range 18-20 percent higher than those of growers/neighbors who ignore resistance. This chart visualizes data found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.

Managing glyphosate resistance is more cost effective than ignoring resistance

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Glyphosate—known by many trade names, including Roundup—has been the most widely used herbicide in the United States since 2001. Crop producers can spray entire fields planted with genetically engineered, glyphosate-tolerant (GT) seed varieties, killing the weeds but not the crops. However, widespread use of glyphosate in isolation can select for glyphosate resistance by controlling susceptible weeds while allowing more resistant weeds to survive, which can then propagate and spread. ERS analyses show that weed control strategies (over 20 years) that manage glyphosate resistance differ from those that ignore glyphosate resistance by using glyphosate during fewer years, by often combining glyphosate with one or more alternative herbicides, and by not applying glyphosate during consecutive growing seasons. Initiating resistance management reduces returns compared to ignoring resistance in the first year, but increases them in subsequent years, as the value of crop yield gains outweighs increases in weed management cost. After two consecutive years of resistance management, the cumulative impact of growers’ returns from continuous corn cultivation, corn-soybean rotation, or continuous soybean cultivation exceeds that received when resistance is ignored. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.

Glyphosate use is more widespread in soybean than in corn production

Monday, May 11, 2015

Recent data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) suggest that glyphosate resistant weeds are more prevalent in soybean than in corn production. Glyphosate, known by many trade names (including Roundup), has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States since 2001. It effectively controls many weed species and generally costs less than the herbicides it replaced. Overall, glyphosate was used on a higher proportion of soybean than corn acres, and it was used alone (not in combination with other herbicides) on a substantially higher proportion of soybean acres. Using glyphosate alone contributes to resistance. Many soybean fields are managed with glyphosate alone, because the next best alternative herbicides are more expensive, less effective, and/or can cause significant injury to soybean plants. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.

Stagnant India oilseed production is supporting growth in vegetable oil imports

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Production incentives for Indian oilseeds are being eroded by declining prices for imported vegetable oils, which are down to a six-year low. Indian rapeseed area fell 7 percent in 2014/15 to 6.6 million hectares. Peanut production is down 4.6 million hectares (15 percent) from 2013/14, continuing a shift by Indian farmers to competing crops such as cotton. Similarly, sunflowerseed area is down 13 percent in 2014/15. Cottonseed production is estimated to be nearly flat in 2014/15 and soybean production increased about 10 percent, reflecting an improved yield. Total oilseed production will be down about a half million metric tons from the previous year and 1.2 million metric tons from 2012/13. To make up for lower domestic production, India’s imports of vegetable oil are forecast to be up more than 10 percent in 2014/15, the fourth consecutive year of growth. This trend has turned India into the world’s top importing country for vegetable oil, and a major factor in determining global prices. This chart is based on the February 2015 Oil Crops Outlook Report.

U.S. soybean shipments to China increase with record U.S. crop

Monday, December 22, 2014

The large 2014/15 (September/August) U.S. soybean crop—18 percent above the previous record—has led to a record pace for U.S. soybean export sales commitments, including sales to China, the largest U.S. market for soybeans. The 2014/15 U.S. soybean crop is estimated at 107.7 million tons and total marketing year exports are forecast at a record 47.9 million tons. Cumulative export shipments have accelerated this fall, with record U.S. export inspections of soybeans in October and again in November. China accounts for most of the gains with 72 percent of U.S. export shipments to date, although substantial gains have been seen for other importers, including the EU, Turkey, and Taiwan. Actual U.S. export shipments are now growing faster than export sales and due to this robust pace, future shipments could moderate without another round of new sales. Even with the outlook for record U.S. exports, the large U.S harvest, coupled with expected record Brazilian and Argentine harvests, is forecast to lead to a 23-percent decline in the U.S. farm price of soybeans to about $10/bushel for 2014/15. Find additional analysis in Soybeans and Oil Crops Outlook: December 2014.

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