ERS Charts of Note
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
China’s corn imports jumped to a record 11.3 million metric tons in 2020, more than twice the volume imported in past years. The increase reflected rapidly increasing Chinese corn prices and China’s commitment to buy U.S. agricultural products under the Phase One trade agreement between China and the United States. Corn is the predominant ingredient in China’s growing animal feed production and is widely used in other food, starch, and alcohol products. In past years, a cumbersome import quota made it difficult for Chinese feed mills and processors to import corn, so they often imported substitutes such as sorghum, barley, distillers’ grains, cassava, and field peas that have low prices and no quotas. Imports of all feed ingredients were relatively low during 2019 because of high tariffs on U.S. commodities and a lull in feed demand due to a disease epidemic that reduced China’s swine herd. In 2020, imports of corn and its substitutes increased to a combined total of more than 30 million metric tons. Large purchases by Chinese state-owned companies and a rapid increase in Chinese corn prices appear to have driven the increase in corn imports—which exceeded the quota for the first time. Rebuilding of the swine herd and waivers of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. sorghum may have contributed to the increase in imports of substitutes. However, imports of U.S. distillers’ grains were still constrained by high duties imposed by a 2016 Chinese anti-dumping investigation. This chart appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Feed Outlook, May 2021.
Thursday, June 4, 2020
Errata: On June 4, 2020, the Chart of Note on growth in pork sales to China was reposted to correct a unit error in the text. U.S. pork exports during first quarter 2020 were corrected to 2 billion pounds. Pork sales to China, including Hong Kong, were corrected to 597 million pounds. The original graph was accurate.
Significantly larger pork sales to China boosted U.S. pork exports during first-quarter 2020 to a record-high volume of over 2 billion pounds. Sales to China (including Hong Kong) were a record 597 million pounds, up nearly fivefold, and more than 50 percent above earlier quarterly highs in 2008 and 2011. China/Hong Kong sales outpaced growth in pork exports to other top markets, which include Mexico, Japan, and Canada. China/Hong Kong was the top export market, accounting for almost 30 percent of first-quarter U.S. pork exports. The export boom is driven by a shortfall in China’s pork output, following an African swine fever (ASF) epidemic that shrank China’s swine herds by 40 percent or more during 2018-19. China’s COVID-19 lockdown, from January through March 2020, further constrained supplies. According to official Chinese data, the country’s first-quarter 2020 pork output was down almost 30 percent from a year earlier—a 9.3-billion-pound decline—and consumer prices for pork were up more than 122 percent. Robust sales to China are expected to continue. According to official statistics for March 2020, China’s swine herd was still more than 29 percent smaller than before the epidemic. Even if China avoids new ASF outbreaks and succeeds in rebuilding production capacity, biological lags in sow gestation and growth of finished hogs will delay China’s restoration of domestic pork supplies until 2021 or later. Exemptions to punitive tariffs imposed on U.S. pork were granted beginning in March 2020, giving a further boost to Chinese purchases. This chart was drawn from the Economic Research Service’s May 2020 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook report. The topic is also discussed in the February 2020 Amber Waves article, "African Swine Fever Shrinks Pork Production in China, Swells Demand for Imported Pork."
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Forecasts for U.S. pork exports for 2019 and 2020 were recently raised, due in large part to expectations of continued significant growth in Chinese demand for U.S. pork. China’s demand for imported pork has accelerated as African Swine Fever (ASF) spread throughout China during 2018-19. While ASF does not affect human beings, it kills most infected swine and presently has no vaccine nor a cure. In September 2019, China’s inventory of swine was down 41 percent from a year earlier, as many farmers slaughtered swine to prevent herds from becoming infected. By mid-October, China’s hog and pork prices had roughly doubled from previous-year levels as pork supplies tightened. To partially fill its supply shortfall, China increased pork imports from the United States and about 10 other countries. Despite 2018 retaliatory tariffs and taxes imposed by the Government of China of up to 78 percent on most U.S. pork products, 2019 U.S. exports of pork to China have increased 91 percent, through August. Total U.S. pork exports in 2019 are forecast at 6.85 billion pounds, 12 percent higher than a year earlier. In 2020, total U.S. pork exports of 7.3 billion pounds are anticipated to be 11 percent above 2019. These charts were compiled from data in various 2019 issues of the USDA, Economic Research Service’s monthly “Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.”
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Exports are important for U.S. agricultural producers, as they make up a sizeable share of the market for many commodities. In the case of cotton and almonds, the United States sends more of its product abroad than it consumes domestically. Nearly 78 percent of all U.S. cotton is exported, with the bulk going to countries in Asia, including Vietnam and China. U.S.-produced almonds, grown almost exclusively in California, constitute nearly 80 percent of the global supply and are shipped worldwide, with 67 percent of production exported. Rice, soybeans, and wheat also depend heavily on export markets, with about half of domestic production destined for non-U.S. markets. The wealth of cropland throughout the Midwest and other parts of the United States gives domestic suppliers the capacity to scale production beyond the needs of the domestic market, allowing agriculture’s share of the U.S. economy to grow. This chart appears in the ERS publication, Selected charts from Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, October 2018. This Chart of Note was originally published February 11, 2019.
Monday, February 11, 2019
Exports are important for U.S. agricultural producers, as they make up a sizeable share of the market for many commodities. In the case of cotton and almonds, the United States sends more of its product abroad than it consumes domestically. Nearly 78 percent of all U.S. cotton is exported, with the bulk going to countries in Asia, including Vietnam and China. U.S.-produced almonds, grown almost exclusively in California, constitute nearly 80 percent of the global supply and are shipped worldwide, with 67 percent of production exported. Rice, soybeans, and wheat also depend heavily on export markets, with about half of domestic production destined for non-U.S. markets. The wealth of cropland throughout the Midwest and other parts of the United States gives domestic suppliers the capacity to scale production beyond the needs of the domestic market, allowing agriculture’s share of the U.S. economy to grow. This chart appears in the ERS publication Selected charts from Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, October 2018.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
The rise in Chinese living standards has spurred demand for a more diverse and nutritious diet, leading to a surge in China’s fruit imports. Fruit is a discretionary item consumed as a dessert, given as gifts, and distributed at meetings and banquets. With greater disposable income, demand for fruit (particularly fresh fruit) has grown rapidly. In the most recent 8 years, import volume grew more than three times to 3.8 million metric tons in 2015. The United States was a pioneer in opening China’s fruit market during the 1990s, but China’s recent surge of imports came mainly from tropical and Southern Hemisphere countries. The United States remains the predominant Northern-Hemisphere supplier, reflecting quality, extended seasonal availability, and other competitive attributes—but its share of total Chinese fruit imports declined for most of the new millennium. In 2015, there was a small uptick in the U.S. share moving from 2.6 percent to 3.5 percent, but far below the peak share of 11.5 percent in 2001. This chart appears in the ERS U.S. Fruit Competes for China Market Share special article published in September 2016.