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Food insecurity in Africa spiked early in COVID-19 pandemic, with limited recovery a year later

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

At the start of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, global projections indicated the number of people experiencing food insecurity would increase due to the pandemic. In a recent USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) study, researchers used World Bank household survey data collected during the pandemic to assess how real-life experiences with food insecurity changed during the first year of the pandemic in four sub-Saharan Africa countries. Researchers tracked three levels of food insecurity intensity—mild, moderate, and severe—based on household responses to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, which poses eight questions on a household’s experience with food security. They observed a sharp increase in reported food insecurity in the early months of the pandemic. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, two countries in which data were available from the early months of the pandemic, the rate of moderate food insecurity reported by households increased from about zero to between 30 and 70 percent by June 2020. In Burkina Faso and Malawi, where data was available beyond 2020, researchers observed gradual declines in food insecurity. At the end of June 2021, about 15 percent of households in Burkina Faso still reported moderate food insecurity, as did about 50 percent of Malawi households. This chart appeared in the ERS COVID-19 Working Paper: Food Insecurity During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Four African Countries, published in July 2022. For further reading, see USDA ERS - Mali’s Rural-Urban Gap in Food Security Vanished Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Textile manufacturing shifts out of China as global cotton exports directed to Asian competitors

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

China’s position as the top global cotton importer is weakening as cotton shipments flow into flourishing textile industries in competing countries. Soon after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, the nation’s textile manufacturers became the world’s leading importers of cotton. Following years of rising production costs, volatility from government intervention in the market, and government caps on the volume of imports, China’s cotton imports dropped from their peak of 24.5 million bales in 2011 to 4.4 million bales in 2015, before rebounding to 9.5 million bales in 2021. Meanwhile, competing countries, including Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey, expanded their textile industries and boosted cotton imports over the same period. These countries’ combined imports now exceed China’s volume of cotton imports. This increasing geographic diversification of global cotton demand has helped U.S. cotton exports to remain relatively robust despite volatility in China’s imports over the past decade. Growth in textile production outside of China supports the USDA projection that U.S. cotton exports will rise by about 1.4 million bales between 2021–30. USDA also projects that combined cotton imports by Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey will rise by 8.1 million bales from 2021 to 2030 while China’s imports will rise by a more modest 3.5 million bales. In 2030, China is forecast to account for 24 percent of total global cotton imports, while the other five destinations are projected to account for 47 percent of world cotton imports. This chart is drawn from the USDA Economic Research Service report, China Cotton: Textiles, Imports, and Xinjiang, published August 2022.

Reliance on oil exports restricts sub-Saharan African countries' ability to import agricultural commodities

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Most sub-Saharan African countries derive almost all export revenue and foreign exchange from high-value commodities such as oil. When the price of oil drops significantly, commodity-dependent countries’ foreign exchange reserves are diminished. When this occurs, countries that would normally import higher volumes of agricultural commodities such as wheat or poultry instead seek cheaper, alternative sources of agricultural goods. Africa’s two largest oil-producing countries, Nigeria and Angola, are particularly sensitive to changes in the price of oil. For instance, in the two years after oil prices dropped in 2014, U.S. exports of wheat to Nigeria and poultry to Angola fell from the previous year by an average of 37 percent and 40 percent, respectively. More recently, the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused a decline in oil prices of 42 percent—the second-greatest drop in oil prices since World War II. This drop in oil prices led to a 34-percent decline in U.S. wheat exports to Nigeria and a 46-percent decline in U.S. poultry exports to Angola. Such volatility has consequences on economic development and can compound food insecurity. This chart first appeared in USDA’s Economic Research Service COVID-19 Working Paper: Single Commodity Export Dependence and the Impacts of COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, released in May 2022.

Rising incomes, urbanization position sub-Saharan Africa as growing export market for U.S. agricultural goods

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Sub-Saharan Africa is a major influencer in global agricultural trends. Rising incomes, growing populations, and increasing urbanization position the region as a growing market for agricultural exports. Dietary patterns in many areas of this region have shifted with the rise in per-capita incomes as consumers increasingly favor more grain- and protein-rich diets over traditional staple foods. Agricultural production in this 46-country region is largely limited to subsistence farming, so many countries rely on imports to meet growing demand for agricultural and food products. The United States has emerged as a major supplier of agricultural exports to sub-Saharan Africa, particularly wheat and poultry. In 2001, the United States exported less than $0.5 billion in agricultural goods to the region. In 2019, $2.1 billion in U.S. agricultural exports—an estimated 1.5 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports—were shipped to sub-Saharan African countries. More than half that value was accounted for by Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, and Ethiopia. As economic development trends observed in these four countries continue to take shape in other markets, the outlook for U.S. export growth is strong. This chart first appeared in USDA’s Economic Research Service COVID-19 Working Paper: Single Commodity Export Dependence and the Impacts of COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, released in May 2022.

China’s wheat imports reach highest level in more than two decades

Friday, September 17, 2021

China is the world’s largest consumer of wheat, accounting for 19 percent of global wheat consumption in marketing year 2020/21 (July–June), more than four times the U.S. share. China also became a leading importer during 2020/21, with purchases estimated at 10.6 million metric tons, China’s highest import total since the 1990s. USDA forecasts China’s 2021/22 imports at 10 million metric tons. Before the 2010/11 marketing year, China’s wheat imports typically totaled 1 million metric tons or less. More recently, wheat imports totaled 3 to 5 million metric tons most years between marketing years 2011/12 to 2019/20. The surge in imports in 2020/21 can be attributed to China’s strong demand for wheat use in animal feed, replenishment of the Chinese Government reserves with high-quality wheat, and efforts to meet import commitments in the U.S.-China Phase One trade agreement. According to China’s customs data, the United States supplied 3 million metric tons of 2020/21 wheat imports—approximately a 28-percent share. This chart first appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) report, Potential Wheat Demand in China: Applicants for Import Quota, August 2021, and includes updated data from ERS’ Wheat Data product.

Food gap in world’s most vulnerable regions expected to narrow by 2030

Friday, April 30, 2021

The intensity of global food insecurity, indicated by a measure called the food gap, is projected to lessen over the coming decade in the world’s poorest regions, even amid decreased incomes associated with pandemic-related drops in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The food gap measures how much food is needed to raise consumption at every income level to meet the nutritional target of 2,100 calories per capita per day, a minimum intake to sustain a healthy and active lifestyle. For the four regions studied in the USDA, Economic Research Service International Food Security Assessment (IFSA), the food gap in 2020 ranged from a low of 12 percent of the daily caloric target in North Africa to 20 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Asia, income effects related to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic are estimated to have increased the food gap’s share of the daily caloric target in 2020 by more than 1 percent, the most of any region. The least impacted region was North Africa, where that share is estimated to have increased by about half a percent. Despite lower economic growth prospects for the IFSA regions associated with the pandemic, the food gap is projected to narrow by 2030. Income growth, along with relatively stable prices for major grains and lower population growth, are contributing factors to this improvement; however, the gap is 12 percent higher than earlier estimates reported by USDA after pandemic-related revisions. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service COVID-19 Working Paper, International Food Security Assessment 2020–30: COVID-19 Update and Impacts on Food Insecurity.

Brazil’s emergence as a competitor for the United States in global agricultural markets is rooted in currency depreciation

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Brazil has emerged as a major competitor for the United States in global agricultural markets, and is now the world’s third largest exporter of agricultural products behind the European Union (EU) and the United States. Brazil’s macroeconomic policies—currency devaluation, in particular—have played an important role in its position as one of the top exporters of agricultural products, including soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar, coffee, orange juice, and meat. Because exported Brazilian commodities are priced in dollars, depreciation of Brazil’s local currency, the real (BRL), has meant that Brazilian farmers have received more BRL for each dollar of export revenues. Export sales therefore have become more profitable, thus encouraging expansion of cropland and adoption of techniques to increase productivity. Brazilian agricultural production and exports, which are poised to continue flourishing over the next decade, according to the USDA Agricultural Projections to 2029 report, could grow even faster under accelerated currency depreciation. Simulations show that if the BRL weakens more than previously expected, exports of major commodities could be an aggregate 5.6 percent greater than previously projected, with Brazil’s exports increasing for each major commodity except beef and soybean meal. This chart is drawn from Economic Research Service (ERS) report, Brazil’s Agricultural Competitiveness: Recent Growth and Future Impacts Under Currency Depreciation and Changing Macroeconomic Conditions, and was highlighted in the ERS October issue of Amber Waves, in the feature article, “Brazil’s Currency Depreciation and Changing Macroeconomic Conditions Determine Agricultural Competitiveness and Future Growth.”

Weather sours U.S. and Mexican sugar production in 2019/20

Monday, March 9, 2020

Sugar production in the United States and globally is dependent upon two crops: sugarbeets, grown in higher, typically colder latitudes; and sugarcane, which grows in lower, typically more tropical latitudes. Poor weather conditions have diminished the production outlook for both the U.S. sugarbeet crop—particularly in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana—and the sugarcane crop, especially in Louisiana. Sugar output is also expected to be significantly lower for 2019/20 in Mexico—the United States’ largest foreign sugar supplier—as drought conditions in several key sugarcane-producing regions are expected to reduce output considerably. The combined 2019/20 U.S. and Mexican sugar production is projected to be 9.7 percent below that in 2018/19, the lowest collective output since 2011/12. The reduced supply expectations are the main reason why the U.S. sugar market is forecast to be at its tightest since 2010/11, and why current U.S. wholesale refined sugar prices are 19 percent higher for cane sugar and 26 percent higher for beet sugar compared with a year ago. This chart is based on information in the Economic Research Service Sugar and Sweeteners Monthly Outlook Report and the Sugar and Sweetener Yearbook Tables.

While Chinese imports are down, global cotton trade is projected at a 7-Year High in 2019

Monday, January 27, 2020

For 2019, increased imports are expected in many non-cotton-producing countries, as well as some producing ones. Although China—a major producer—is projected as the leading importer in 2019, its upcoming imports are expected to be below those from a year ago, as cotton mill use in China is forecast to decline for the second consecutive year. In contrast, all other major importers are anticipated to secure additional imports this year. For Bangladesh and Vietnam, higher cotton imports are seen as supporting the recent textile and apparel industry expansion. At the same time, a 3-decade-low production forecast for Pakistan in 2019 is expected to result in record-high cotton imports to help sustain its spinning industry. Meanwhile, higher imports are also forecast for Turkey and others in 2019. In fact, global cotton imports are forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rise for the fourth consecutive year in 2019 to 43.8 million bales, nearly 4 percent (1.6 million bales) above last year’s volume. The growing trend is significant for the United States, as more than 80 percent of U.S. cotton production is exported to numerous countries around the world, with the U.S. share of 2019 global trade forecast at 38 percent. The 2019 global import forecast would be its highest since 2012’s record of 47.6 million bales. This chart is based on data in the ERS Cotton and Wool Outlook Tables, released in January 2020.

Meat production on the rise in former Soviet Union countries

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Former Soviet Union countries, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan experienced significant contractions in meat production in the 1990s and early 2000s. This trend reversed since 2005, with meat production over 70 percent greater in 2011-15 than the low point in 2001-05. The move from a centrally planned to a market based economy in the 1990s upended the growth of the livestock sector. Because of severe financial constraints, the large budget subsidies to agriculture—and especially the previously favored livestock sector—were mostly terminated, which led to reduced production. Aided by renewed subsidies and other policies beneficial to the industry, the livestock sector in these countries rebounded. From 2000 to 2015, average annual meat production rose in Kazakhstan (39 percent), Russia (116 percent), and Ukraine (50 percent). This chart appears in the ERS report Changing Crop Area in the Former Soviet Union Region released in February 2017.

U.S. cotton production and share of global supply are expected to be up in 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The 2016 U.S. cotton crop is expected to reach 15.8 million bales (1 bale = 480 pounds), 23 percent larger than the 2015 crop, reflecting a 17-percent increase in acreage, lower abandonment and higher yields compared to last year. Globally, cotton production is projected to reach 102.5 million bales in 2016, up 5 percent from last year. Global cotton production is concentrated among a small number of countries, with India and China accounting for nearly half of world production and the top five producers expected to supply 77 percent of the world’s cotton this year. Production in most countries is expected to increase at least modestly this year, with the exception of China, where production is expected to fall 4.5 percent to 21.4 million bales as acreage there falls to historically low levels. Given the large increase in U.S. production, the U.S. share of global supply is expected to increase from 13.2 percent in 2015 to 15.4 percent in 2016, compared to a 27-percent share supplied by India and 21 percent by China. This chart is from the ERS report Cotton and Wool Outlook report, July 2016.

India emerges as major beef exporter

Monday, June 27, 2016

Since the late 2000s, India’s exports of beef—specifically water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef—have expanded rapidly, with India moving just ahead of Brazil to become the world’s largest exporter in 2014. India’s beef exports during the period have grown at an annual rate of about 12 percent, rising from an average volume of 0.31 million metric tons during 1999-2001 to an estimated 1.95 million during 2013-15. India’s robust export growth contributed to the expansion of world beef trade during this period and also increased the country’s share of the volume of shipments by major world beef exporters from just 5 percent during 1999-2001 to about 20 percent during 2013-15. The U.S. market share fluctuated during this period but declined from an average of 18 percent during 1999-2001 to 12 percent during 2013-15. This chart is from the ERS report, From Where the Buffalo Roam: India’s Beef Exports, released June 22, 2016.

Sweetener consumption in Mexico rebounded in 2014/15

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Domestic deliveries of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in Mexico—a useful indicator of human consumption—rebounded in the most recent marketing year (October/September) after declining about 6.5 percent the previous year. In January 2014, Mexico imposed a tax of one peso per liter on soft drinks in an effort to curb obesity by reducing consumption, and this is believed to be at least partially behind the reduction in sweetener deliveries observed during the 2013/14 marketing year. From October 2014 through September 2015, sweetener use by Mexican food processors returned to levels equivalent to just before the tax was imposed. Food consumption patterns change slowly and reflect many factors, so time and additional research is needed to fully understand the effect of Mexico’s soft-drink tax. This chart is based on the February 2016 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook.

China's feed industry is growing rapidly as livestock sector modernizes

Monday, February 22, 2016

China’s livestock industry has expanded rapidly in recent years as diets shift toward more animal proteins. China is now the world’s largest producer of livestock products and the largest manufacturer of animal feed. Commercial feed production grew from just 5 million metric tons (mmt) in 1982 to 198 mmt in 2014. The industry’s growth paralleled that of meat and egg production, which grew from about 15 mmt annually in the early 1980s to 114 mmt in 2014. China’s surge in feed output for swine after 2007 reflects the Government’s emphasis on modernizing hog production and the substitution of commercial feed for locally procured materials. Feed produced for poultry grew steadily from 1990 to 2012 as feed companies promoted vertical coordination in poultry production beginning in the 1990s. Feed production for egg-laying poultry, aquaculture, cattle, and sheep also grew rapidly during 2004-2012. The growth of China’s commercial feed industry has increased its need for imported feed ingredients, making it a leading market for U.S. soybeans, sorghum, barley, and other commodities. This chart is from Development of China’s Feed Industry and Demand for Imported Commodities.

China's growing feed industry depends heavily on imported ingredients

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

After nearly four decades of transitioning from a largely plant-based diet toward greater meat consumption, China is now the world’s largest producer of livestock products and has also emerged as the largest manufacturer of animal feed. This industry’s need for a reliable supply of feed ingredients has led to a reduction of China’s import barriers for many agricultural commodities and to China’s emergence as the world’s largest importer of soybeans and a growing market for imported distillers dried grains, sorghum and barley. The need for corn is still met largely through domestic production, but China became a net corn importer in 2009. The continued growth of the feed industry and demand for feed ingredients could further curb the use of trade barriers that protect Chinese grain and oilseed producers. As advocates for lower import barriers, Chinese feed companies help to forge closer integration between China’s agricultural markets and global markets. This chart is from Development of China’s Feed Industry and Demand for Imported Commodities.

Editor's Pick 2015, #2:<br>China's meat imports surge, driven by rising domestic demand and prices

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

As China enters a new phase of its economic development, its demand for higher-valued products like meat and dairy products is growing rapidly. China’s imports of meats during 2013-14 were more than double the volume imported during the early 2000s. Growing demand and higher prices of domestic meat products have driven the growth in China’s meat imports over the past few years. China’s meat imports have shifted from items like chicken feet and animal offal to muscle meat, as living standards rose and China opened its market to more beef and mutton imports. The U.S. is currently the top supplier of China’s poultry and pork imports. U.S. exports of meat, dairy products, and other consumer-oriented products, such as fruits, nuts, and wine to China rose from $234 million in 2000 to $3 billion in 2013, comprising nearly 12 percent of the value of total U.S. agricultural exports to China that year. The growth in China’s meat imports could mean new opportunities for U.S. exporters. This chart is based on the ERS report, China’s Growing Demand for Agricultural Imports.

Agricultural production in India shifting to high-value outputs

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

India’s economic growth and rising incomes have expanded consumer food demand to include higher valued foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and some meat products. Indian farmers appear to be meeting these new growth opportunities. A look at average production shares in the 1980-84 and the 2004-08 periods shows that growth in production of animal and horticulture products reduced the share of production growth attributable to grains. Accordingly, India’s real value of farm production increased an average 3 percent each year, rising from 2.6 trillion rupees in 1980 to 7.3 trillion rupees in 2008, or from $42 billion to $116 billion. This chart is based on Propellers of Agricultural Productivity in India, December 2015.

Corn became China's leading crop in 2012

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dietary changes in China have led to profound changes in its markets for agricultural products. China is now the world’s largest producer of livestock products as well as the largest manufacturer of animal feed. Commercial feed includes a variety of raw materials that can be altered depending on market conditions, but the predominant ingredients in China are corn and soybean meal. China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans, but the Chinese Government’s long-standing goal of self-sufficiency in grains has led to several policies aimed at supporting and expanding domestic corn production, resulting in China’s corn output doubling from 2000 to 2013. Corn output has surpassed that of wheat and rice, and became the country’s leading crop in 2012. In contrast, China’s domestic soybean output was relatively flat throughout this period and declined to under 12 million metric tons in 2013. While import restrictions and price supports succeeded in expanding corn production, those policies also led to large corn surpluses held in government stocks at prices well above world prices. This chart is from Development of China’s Feed Industry and Demand for Imported Commodities, November 19, 2015.

Increased productivity now the primary source of growth in world agricultural output

Friday, October 16, 2015

The average annual rate of global agricultural output growth slowed in the 1970s and 1980s, then accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s. In the latest period estimated (2001-12), global output of total crop and livestock commodities was expanding at an average rate of 2.5 percent per year. In the decades prior to 1990, most output growth came about from intensification of input use (i.e., using more labor, capital, and material inputs per acre of agricultural land). Bringing new land into agriculture production and extending irrigation to existing agricultural land were also important sources of growth. This changed over the last two decades, as input growth slowed. In 2001-12, improvements in productivity—getting more output from existing resources—accounted for about two-thirds of the total growth in agricultural output worldwide, reflecting the use of new technology and changes in management practices by agricultural producers around the world. This chart is based on the ERS data product, International Agricultural Productivity, updated October 2015.

India projected to remain the leading global beef exporter

Friday, October 9, 2015

Since 2009, India’s exports of beef—specifically water buffalo meat, also known as carabeef—have expanded, with India moving ahead of Brazil to become the world’s largest beef exporter in 2014. India’s beef exports grew about 14 percent annually between 2000 and 2015, and are expected to lead major exporters with about 6 percent annual growth during 2015-2025. India’s exports of relatively low-cost beef (primarily to low- and middle-income markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East) reached a 24 percent global market share in 2015, and that share is projected to increase to 32 percent by 2025. The U.S. share of the global beef market has fluctuated, but averaged 12 percent during 2013-2015, and is projected to rise to 15 percent in 2025. This chart is based on data and analysis from USDA Agricultural Projections to 2024.