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The cost of producing corn and soybeans varies across the three leading exporters

Friday, June 24, 2016

The cost of producing agricultural commodities varies across countries and regions due to many factors, including the quality of resources, climatic conditions, and the cost and availability of necessary inputs. Differences in cost of production help to determine a country’s export competitiveness in global markets, with low-cost producers usually capturing a larger share of global exports. Corn and soybeans are among the most important agricultural commodities traded in global markets, and the United States, Brazil and Argentina are the leading exporters, accounting for a combined 88 percent of world soybean exports and 73 percent of world corn exports between 2008 and 2012. Based on data for 2010 and 5-year average yields, the cost of producing soybeans in Argentina average $8.81 per bushel, compared to $7.47 in Brazil and just over $8.00 in the United States. For corn, Brazil had the highest cost of production at $4.74 per bushel, compared to $3.93 for Argentina and $3.80 in the United States. This chart is from the ERS report, Corn and Soybean Production Costs and Export Competitiveness in Argentina, Brazil and the United States, released on June 22, 2016.

Corn production in Brazil is expanding

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Since 2000/01, corn production in Brazil has doubled, reaching a record 85 million metric tons in 2014/15, equivalent to 8.4 percent of global corn production. Corn is now Brazil’s second largest crop (after soybeans), accounting for 20 percent of planted area, and Brazil is the world’s second largest corn exporter, behind the United States. Due to a favorable climate and long growing season, double-cropping is possible in much of the country, and the majority of corn in Brazil is harvested as a second crop planted after soybeans. Technological advances in soil management and improvements in hybrid corn varieties have supported this expansion. The second-crop corn harvest largely serves the export market, putting it in direct competition with the timing of the U.S. corn harvest. This chart is from the ERS report, Brazil’s Corn Industry and the Effect on the Seasonal Pattern of U.S. Corn Exports, released on June 15, 2016.

U.S. agricultural exports down, imports up, in 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural exports is forecast at $124.5 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2016 (ending September 30), down $15.2 billion from FY 2015 and the second consecutive decline since a record $152.3 billion in agricultural exports was achieved in FY 2014. The declining export values over the past few years reflect a combination of lower commodity prices, a relatively weak global economy, and a strong U.S. dollar—which makes U.S. products more expensive in foreign currency terms. The value of imports, on the other hand, continues to grow and is forecast to reach a record $114.8 billion this year, up $800 million from FY 2015. With lower exports and higher imports, the FY 2016 agricultural trade balance is forecast to fall to $9.7 billion, down $16.0 billion from last year and the lowest since FY 2006. This chart is from the ERS report Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: May 2016.

World cotton consumption expected to exceed production for second consecutive year

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

World cotton consumption is expected to grow modestly during the 2016/17 marketing year (August-July), reaching 110.8 million bales. That is similar to 2014/15 levels after dipping slightly in 2015/16. Modest growth in the global economy and relatively low cotton prices are expected to support mill use in most countries. China, India, and Pakistan are expected to lead world cotton mill use and account for a combined 62 percent of the total, similar to 2015/16. Global cotton production is forecast at 104.4 million bales in 2016/17, a modest increase following the 16-percent reduction in production in 2015/16—the result of inclement weather and pest damage in a number of producing countries. While cotton area is expected to decline, a rebound in yields would support the increase in production. With global cotton consumption forecast to exceed production for a second consecutive season, 2016/17 world ending stocks are projected to decline 6 percent from 2015/16, but at more than 96 million bales, ending stocks remain historically high and will continue to weigh on prices and production. This chart is from the May 2016 Cotton and Wool Outlook report.

Nearly all U.S. ethanol is produced and sold in domestic markets

Thursday, May 5, 2016

U.S. production of ethanol hit a record 14.8 billion gallons in 2015, and when combined with the carry-over stocks from the previous year and 2015 imports, the total ethanol supply reached an all-time high of 15.7 billion gallons. Nearly all ethanol blended into the U.S. gasoline supply is produced domestically, and, over the past five years, about 94 percent of domestic production was used in the United States. Ethanol imports peaked in 2006 at 731 million gallons (equal to 12 percent of the U.S. supply), but each year since 2010 exports have exceeded imports, making the United States a net exporter of ethanol. The domestic market for ethanol is at full capacity due to the technical and regulatory constraints that limit most of the U.S. gasoline supply to a 10 percent maximum ethanol blend, so the export market is now the primary opportunity for growth. Ethanol exports peaked in 2011 at nearly 1.2 billion gallons, but have remained below 850 million gallons for the past four years. This chart is based on the ERS U.S. Bioenergy Statistics data product.

Global cotton stockpiles beginning to decline

Friday, April 29, 2016

Global ending stocks of cotton are forecast to decline in the 2015/16 marketing year (August-July), down about 9 percent from last year’s record of nearly 112 million bales. Cotton stocks rose dramatically between 2010/11 and 2014/15 as relatively high prices encouraged world production and discouraged consumption. Despite this season’s anticipated decrease, ending stocks remain double the 2010/11 level. The recent global stocks buildup resulted from policies in China that insulated Chinese cotton producers from declining world prices and, at the same time, also encouraged imports. More recent policy shifts in China have discouraged production and imports in that country, beginning the process of reducing the surplus of Government-held stocks. In 2015/16, China’s stocks are expected to decrease for the first time since 2010/11. However, with stock reductions also expected in the rest of the world, China’s share of global stocks remains above 60 percent. This chart is from the April 2016 Cotton and Wool Outlook report.

Manmade fibers account for a growing share of textile imports

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

U.S. net imports of textile and apparel fiber products increased for a third consecutive calendar year in 2015 to the highest on record, reaching 15.7 billion pounds (raw fiber equivalent), compared with 14.5 billion pounds in 2014. U.S. net imports consist mostly of cotton and manmade fiber products, as demand for linen, wool, and silk products remains relatively small. With manmade fiber imports expanding steadily in recent years, cotton’s share has declined consistently. In 2015, cotton textile and apparel products accounted for 44 percent of the total imports, while manmade fibers contributed nearly 49 percent. By comparison, in 2007, cotton accounted for 56 percent of all textile and apparel imports, while the share of manmade fibers was 37 percent. This chart is from the Cotton and Wool Outlook, March 2016.

After a decade of rapid growth, corn use for ethanol is projected to decline

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ethanol production in the United States is based almost entirely on corn as a feedstock. Corn‑based ethanol production is projected to fall over the next 10 years. This reflects declining overall gasoline consumption in the United States (which is mostly a 10‑percent ethanol blend, E10), infrastructural and other constraints on growth for E15 (15‑percent ethanol blend), and the small size of the market for E85 (85‑percent ethanol blend), with less-than-offsetting increases in U.S. ethanol exports. Even with the U.S. ethanol production decline, demand for corn to produce ethanol continues to be strong. While the share of U.S. corn expected to go to U.S. ethanol production falls, it accounts for over a third of total U.S. corn use throughout the projection period. This chart is based on information in USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025.

Global rice trade is projected to decline in 2016

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Global trade in rice is expected to decline for the second consecutive year in 2016, reflecting reduced exports from India, Australia, Cambodia, and the United States, and softening demand, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Reduced imports by Nigeria—the world’s second-largest rice import market—account for the largest share of the decline in global rice trade. Imports by Nigeria are expected to fall 17 percent in 2016, the result of a recent increase in import tariffs, declining oil revenues, and foreign exchange restrictions. Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, the European Union, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are also expected to reduce rice imports this year. The decline in global trade comes despite further growth in demand by China, the world’s largest rice importing country, as well as expanded imports by the Middle East and Indonesia. Rice imports by China have been at record high levels since 2012 and are expected to grow 4 percent in 2016, reflecting prices that are lower in the global market than the domestic market, stock-building efforts by the government, and quality concerns regarding domestic rice.

U.S. jobs supported by agricultural exports grew in 2014

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Agricultural exports support job growth in the United States, and the number of jobs depends on the type of products exported. In calendar year 2014, $150 billion in U.S. agricultural exports supported an estimated 1,132,000 full-time civilian jobs, up from the 1,095,000 agricultural export-related jobs the previous year. Products that are largely unprocessed and sold in bulk tend to generate fewer jobs than higher value, more highly processed, nonbulk agricultural products. However, when prices for bulk commodities are low and export volume is high, the number of jobs supported by each billion dollars of export value can rise. This was the case in 2014, as the number of jobs supported by exports of bulk commodities rose by 23 percent from the previous year, while jobs supported by exports of nonbulk commodities declined by nearly 5 percent. Consequently, the growth in jobs associated with U.S. agricultural exports was driven purely by bulk commodities in 2014. Nevertheless, nonbulk commodities still account for the majority of U.S. agricultural exports, and continue to support the majority of jobs generated by agricultural exports. This chart is based on the Agricultural Trade Multipliers data product.

Canada, Mexico, and the EU supply more than half of U.S. agricultural imports

Friday, February 12, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural imports has more than doubled since 2004, exceeding $114 billion in fiscal year 2015 and up 4 percent from the previous year. Canada and Mexico are the two largest sources of U.S. agricultural imports and account for about one-third of the total value, while the combined value of imports from the countries that comprise the European Union roughly equal the value of imports from Canada. Together, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union account for just over half of the value of agricultural products that the United States imports, and this share has held relatively constant over the past decade although the import shares for Canada and the EU have declined, while Mexico’s has grown. The $4.3 billion in agricultural imports from China in 2015 still accounts for less than 4 percent of the U.S. total, but has grown by nearly 170 percent since 2004. This data in this chart is from the ERS Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States data set.

Agricultural exports and trade balance are declining

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The value of U.S. agricultural exports and imports increased each year from fiscal year (FY) 2009 (October 1-September 30), through FY 2014, when the agricultural trade balance reached an all-time high of $43.1 billion. In FY 2015 the value of agricultural exports fell by 8.3 percent while imports grew by 4.5 percent, cutting the trade balance to $25.7 billion. The forecast for FY 2016 is for this pattern to continue: lower exports and higher imports are expected to push the agricultural trade surplus below $10 billion for the first time since 2006. Lower commodity prices account for some of the decline in the value of exports, but a stronger U.S. dollar also plays a role. Unlike in 2009 when both exports and imports fell due to the global recession, in 2015 and 2016 imports are growing at the same time that exports are falling, reflecting the greater purchasing power of the U.S. dollar in international markets and the reduced purchasing power of foreign currencies to buy U.S. goods. This chart is from the USDA/ERS Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States(FATUS) dataset and the December Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report.

The dollar gained considerable strength in 2015

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The value of the U.S. dollar against other major currencies strengthened considerably in 2015, accelerating a trend that began in 2011. The agricultural trade-weighted exchange rate is a broad measure of the value of the dollar against 79 foreign currencies, weighted by their share of U.S. agricultural exports. The dollar exchange rate affects the price of U.S. commodities in foreign markets, with a stronger dollar making U.S. products more expensive in terms of the local currency of importing countries. On the other hand, a stronger dollar makes U.S. imports less expensive in dollar terms. Since the dollar exchange rate affects the relative price of U.S. and foreign commodities in global markets, it can have important implications for agricultural trade. With the strengthening of the dollar in 2015, agricultural exports are expected to fall below 2014 levels, while imports are forecast to increase. ERS exchange rate projections used for the USDA Agricultural Projections to 2025 report (the current Agricultural Baseline) suggest the dollar will continue to gain strength—but at a slower pace—in 2016 and 2017, before trending lower from 2018 through 2025. This chart is based on the International Macroeconomic Data Set.

The United States is the leading exporter of poultry to Sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Over the past decade, Africa has emerged to become an important market for U.S. poultry exports. Rising incomes, population growth and urbanization support strong demand for poultry across much of Africa, while limitations in domestic production have led to a heavy reliance on imports from the United States, the European Union, and Brazil. For the United States, the overwhelming share (93 percent) of poultry exports to Africa are sent to Sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2012, the United States has been the leading supplier of poultry to this region, followed by the European Union and Brazil. Africa’s share of U.S. poultry exports grew to 12.6 percent in 2014, making it the second largest destination after Mexico (23.8 percent) and ahead of Hong Kong (8.6 percent), China (5.8 percent) and Canada (3.7 percent). U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa reached 455 million kilograms in 2014 (compared to 487 million kilograms to all of Africa), valued at $523.6 million. This chart is from the December 2015 Livestock Dairy and Poultry Outlook report.

The price of sorghum has returned to below the price of corn

Friday, December 18, 2015

Sorghum is a common feed grain that can substitute for corn in livestock feed rations and in the production of ethanol. Corn tends to be preferred over sorghum as a feed ingredient, so sorghum typically sells at a discount compared to corn in global markets. Throughout much of the 2014 marketing year (September-August) this situation reversed, and due in large part to strong demand from China, sorghum began selling at a premium over corn, at times exceeding 20 percent. As a result, sorghum use for ethanol production declined while acreage for the 2015 harvest increased to result in a record-large U.S. crop. This, combined with recent changes in China’s import policy that could reduce U.S. sorghum’s export prospects for the 2015 crop, has greatly increased the availability of sorghum in domestic markets for feeding and ethanol production. Because of the greater availability of sorghum, the price fell back below the price of corn and is now more in line with historic relationships. Given these lower prices, sorghum use for ethanol production is expected to expand more than fivefold this year, and U.S. shipments to Mexico, which were hampered by the high prices for the 2014 crop, are expected to at least partially resume during the current marketing year, which began in September 2015. This chart is based on the October 2015 Feed Outlook and the ERS Feed Grains database.

Many U.S. agricultural goods shipped to the European Union face high tariffs

Friday, November 13, 2015

The United States and the European Union (EU) are major producers of most agricultural goods and account for a significant share of global agricultural trade. While overall trade between the United States and the EU has grown over time, agricultural trade has decreased, due in part to the relatively high trade barriers facing U.S. agricultural exports to the EU. While the simple average applied tariff for all goods is estimated at 3.5 percent for EU exports to the United States and 5.5 percent for U.S. exports to the EU, agricultural commodities tend to face larger tariffs; the simple average tariffs for agricultural goods are 4.7 percent for EU exports to the United States and 13.7 percent for U.S. exports to the EU. In addition, many agricultural goods face tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) that allow the tariff to change depending on the quantity imported. This chart is from the ERS report, Agriculture in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Tariffs, Tariff-Rate Quotas and Non-Tariff Measures.

For berries, the price and quantity purchased is highly seasonal

Monday, November 9, 2015

The U.S. retail supply of fresh produce differs from that of manufactured foods, which are available year-round with stable prices. For many produce items, the seasonality of domestic production limits the quantity available in winter to a small fraction of that available during spring or summer, leading to higher retail prices in the off-season. For example, retail strawberry prices in late December can often be more than twice as high as prices in May. Until the early 2000s, berries were not available to most consumers outside the short domestic production seasons. Advances in trade and technology have changed that, and imports—particularly during the fall and winter months, when the supply of domestic berries is at its lowest—are leading to more consistent year-round availability and lower off-season prices. Consumers benefit through the potential for lower food expenditures and greater variety in their diets. This chart is from the ERS report, Measuring the Impacts of Off-Season Berry Imports.

A growing share of U.S. corn is exported as ethanol byproducts

Thursday, November 5, 2015

U.S. exports of distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—a common byproduct of corn ethanol production—have grown from nearly zero in 2005 to as high as 12 million metric tons in the 2013/14 marketing year (September/August), with 10 million metric tons forecast for export in the 2015 marketing year. This increase in exports reflects the expansion in ethanol production that occurred over this same period, rising from just under 4 billion gallons in 2005 to more than 14 billion gallons in 2014. While U.S. corn exports still exceed the volume of DDGS exported, these markets are linked because each ton of corn processed into ethanol produces just under a third of a ton of DDGS. Ethanol production accounted for 38 percent of U.S. corn use in 2014/15, while exports were less than 14 percent, but DDGS exports represent another way that U.S. corn production enters global markets. This chart is from the ERS data products, U.S. Bioenergy Statistics and the Feed Grains Database.

Output and employment in the U.S. textile industry has stabilized

Monday, November 2, 2015

Employment at U.S. textile plants has fallen by nearly two-thirds over the past 20 years as fabric production and apparel manufacturing shifted overseas in search of lower labor and production costs. Today, more than 60 percent of clothing and other textile products purchased by U.S. consumers is produced outside of the United States. However, both the sharp decline in U.S. textile employment and the rise in import share of U.S. fiber consumption began to level off around 2009. In recent years, the U.S. textile industry—particularly the capital-intensive yarn and fabric production industry—has shown signs of a modest rebound. Cotton consumption by U.S. textile mills in marketing year 2015 (August/July) is forecast at 3.7 million bales, up 3.5 percent from a year ago and 12.1 percent from its 2011 low. In 2014, U.S. textile mill employment showed its first gain since 1994—up 0.2 percent. Investment in U.S. cotton spinning by firms from China and India is underway as well, reflecting the changes in global textile markets since the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (which governed world trade in textiles and garments) expired on January 1, 2005. This chart is from the October Cotton and Wool Outlook report.

Brazil is now both an exporter and importer of ethanol

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Brazil had historically been the world’s largest net exporter of ethanol, but rising sugar prices (sugar is Brazil’s primary ethanol feedstock) and growing demand for domestic ethanol consumption led to lower ethanol exports, particularly in 2009 and 2010. In 2010 the Brazilian Government lifted a tariff on ethanol imports through the end of 2015, leading to the country’s first imports of ethanol. Imports grew rapidly in 2011 and resulted in Brazil being a net ethanol importer—by a small margin—for the only time in its history. Ethanol exports recovered in 2012 but have declined each year since, while imports remain an important source of supply. Since 2010, the United States—now the world’s largest ethanol exporter—has been the largest supplier of ethanol to Brazil, followed distantly by the EU. This chart is based on the ERS report, Biofuel Use in International Markets: the Importance of Trade.

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