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The regional composition of U.S. exports has shifted toward developing East Asia over time

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A marked shift in the destinations for U.S. agricultural exports has accompanied the increased participation of developing economies in global agricultural trade. Elimination of agricultural trade barriers within North America boosted exports to Canada and Mexico—partners with the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement. Rising household incomes and changing trade policies in developing East Asia (China and Southeast Asia, less Singapore) led to a near tripling in that region’s share of U.S. agricultural exports. China’s share of U.S. agricultural exports swelled from 3 percent on average during 1995-99 to 16 percent during 2011-15. A single product—soybeans—accounts for half of this increase. However, the strong growth in demand for U.S. agricultural exports in East Asia and North America has been offset by a sharp decline in the share going to Europe and high-income economies in East Asia, particularly Japan. In the European Union, a number of barriers—including concerns over genetically modified products—continue to hamper U.S. agricultural trade. This chart appears in the ERS report The Global Landscape of Agricultural Trade, 1995-2014, released in November 2017.

Oilseeds have grown significantly in share of total global agricultural trade while fibers have declined

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Among the product categories that make up the largest share of global trade value, movement in average import shares has varied with some products growing in significance and others declining. Over the four 5-year periods measured between 1995 and 2014, oilseed imports (bulk commodities) and their products (intermediate commodities) had the fastest growth in share of total value. In contrast, the share of trade in two bulk product categories—grains and tropical commodities (coffee, sugar, and cocoa)—declined over 1995-2014. For consumer-oriented products, the share of animal products, fruits and nuts, and vegetables in global agricultural trade declined slightly, while the share of processed food increased. Fibers, particularly cotton and others used for clothing, witnessed the steepest loss in share of total agricultural import value. Cotton consumption peaked in 2007 before falling off. China, the largest consumer of cotton fiber, reduced its imports beginning in 2012 to rely more on domestic production and carried over stocks from previous years. The growth in oilseed trade and their products has been one of the most significant developments in the global trade landscape, driven by growing imports from China and India and export growth from Southeast Asia and the Americas. This chart appears in the ERS report, The Global Landscape of Agricultural Trade, 1995-2014, released in November 2017.

Low-income countries had the highest rate of agricultural growth, but middle-income countries had the highest rate of productivity growth

Monday, October 16, 2017

During 2001-14, low-income countries accounted for only 5 percent of global agricultural production. But these countries achieved a higher rate of agricultural output growth than middle- or high-income countries, at nearly 4 percent per year during that period. Most of that development came from increasing the use of land and other inputs, rather than from raising the total productivity of those inputs. Middle-income countries, on the other hand, accounted for 40 percent of global agricultural production and achieved growth that was nearly as high (more than 3.5 percent per year), largely because of improving productivity. For high-income countries, which accounted for 25 percent of global production, agricultural growth averaged under 2 percent per year, even as land and other inputs employed in the sector fell. Improvements in productivity account for all the output growth in high-income countries. Overall, most gains in global agricultural productivity have come from middle-income countries. Strengthening the capacity of national agricultural research and extension systems in large middle-income countries (such as Brazil and India) has been a key determinant of their agricultural productivity performance. This chart appears in the ERS topic page for International Agricultural Productivity, updated October 2017.

Exchange rate movements influence U.S. export competitiveness

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Agricultural goods can be broken into distinct categories based on value or level of processing. Bulk goods, like grains and oilseeds, are sold in large quantities at relatively low per unit costs. They also tend to be relatively standardized products. U.S. and foreign products in these categories are more readily substituted for each other, as changes in exchange rates alter relative prices among suppliers. Higher value goods, like meats, fruits and vegetables, and processed goods, are differentiated by factors such as brand, quality, or sanitary and phytosanitary standards. As a result, they may be less likely to be substituted across origins on the basis of price or relative price in the case of exchange rates. The U.S. trade weighted exchange rate index from the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis has shown strong dollar appreciation since 2014, resulting in declining exports for both categories (bulk exports declined by 9 percent and high-value products fell by 10 percent). Typically, bulk goods would decline further than high-value goods during appreciation, but the 2012-13 U.S. drought had a significant impact on the supply of several major crops. As a result, export volume decreased, but value remained high because of higher commodity prices. By 2014, production of key bulk commodities like corn and soybeans recovered and have since continued to grow, drawing down prices. As prices have fallen and stocks have been replenished, export volume has increased, dulling the perceived impact of a rising dollar. This chart appears in the Amber Waves article, "U.S. Agricultural Trade in 2016: Major Commodities and Trends," released in May 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.

U.S. agricultural exports have historically exceeded imports, leading to trade surplus

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The United States has had a surplus in agricultural trade every year since 1959. Agricultural exports have accounted for 10 to 11 percent of total U.S. exports in recent years, while agricultural imports accounted for about 5 percent of total imports. The result is that agriculture has become a reliable trade surplus sector, but the size of the surplus has varied greatly recently. U.S. imports generally have tended to rise more smoothly because the United States has a developed, stable economy with a preference for out-of-season goods and high-value items. Meanwhile, the country’s major export commodities include soybeans, corn, and wheat. These crops have trade figures that tend to fluctuate more in response to price changes because there is little to differentiate between the U.S. and its competitors’ raw goods, compared to higher value processed products. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves data feature, U.S. Agricultural Trade in 2016: Major Commodities and Trends, released in May 2017.

Deforestation due to agriculture in Brazil has generally declined over time

Monday, May 15, 2017

Increasing global population and demand for food have led to rising agricultural production and demand for land for farming purposes. Expanded agricultural land has often come from tropical deforestation in developing countries that have become major exporters of commodities like beef, soybeans, and palm oil. In Brazil, for example, deforestation is linked most closely with the production of beef in the Amazon basin and the Cerrado region. Historically, cattle account for over 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon and 88 percent in the Cerrado. At its peak in 1995, beef accounted for 3.75 million hectares of deforestation in Brazil, compared to 0.71 million hectares in 2013. Deforestation due to soybean production has generally remained low, particularly in the Amazon. Soybean production has mostly increased by expanding onto previously cleared cropland or pasture, rather than by contributing directly to deforestation. In more recent years, higher yields and policy changes have contributed to a decline in deforestation rates in Brazil. This chart appears in the ERS report International Trade and Deforestation: Potential Policy Effects via a Global Economic Model, released April 2017.

Exports account for more than 50 percent of U.S. cotton and almond production

Friday, May 12, 2017

Exports play a significant role for U.S. agricultural producers. For many commodities, exports make up a sizeable share of the market for U.S. production. In the case of cotton and almonds, the United States sends more of its product abroad than is consumed domestically. Roughly 75 percent of all U.S. cotton is exported, with the majority going to countries in North and Central America like Canada, Mexico, and Nicaragua. U.S.-produced almonds, grown almost exclusively in California, represent nearly 79 percent of global supply and are naturally shipped worldwide, with 67 percent of production exported. Rice, soybeans, and wheat also depend heavily on export markets as the destination for about half of domestic supply. The wealth of cropland throughout the Midwest and other parts of America gives domestic suppliers the capacity to scale production beyond the needs of the U.S. 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, 2017, released April 28, 2017.

The majority of U.S. agricultural exports, by value, go to five key markets

Friday, April 21, 2017

The United States exported $135 billion worth of agricultural goods in 2016. This is down from a record of $150 billion in 2014. While the Nation exports agricultural goods to most countries worldwide, a significant share goes to major trading partners. In 2016, 61 percent of the value of agricultural exports went to Canada, China, Mexico, the European Union (EU-28), and Japan. The dominance of key markets is not a new phenomenon. In fact, these five destinations have accounted for close to 60 percent of agricultural export value since at least 2000. In the case of Canada and Mexico, proximity plays a large role in its trade relationship with the United States. Additionally, regional trade agreements increased trade between the country and its nearest neighbors. The large share of trade going to China, Japan, and the EU-28 is influenced by the sheer size of the economies involved. The EU-28, China, and Japan are the three leading economies after the United States in terms of gross domestic product, and each country accounts for a significant share of global imports of agricultural goods. This chart is drawn from data in the Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States (FATUS) data product, updated in April 2017.

India remains the world’s largest dairy producer

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Errata:On April 21, 2017, the axis and text of this Chart of Note were revised so that the production units were correctly listed as million tons.


Errata: On March 29, 2017, the title of this Chart of Note was revised so that it correctly references India as the world’s largest dairy producer.


India is the largest milk-producing country in the world. The country is trailed by the United States, which is the second largest producer, in milk production by a large margin. India is unique among the major milk producers because more than half of its production comes from water buffalo, rather than cattle. Its dairy herd, also the largest in the world, has the biggest herds of both dairy cattle and water buffalo. Since 1980, production has grown consistently at an average of 4.5 percent per year. The rate of growth between water buffalo and cow’s milk has also been quite similar at 4.6 and 4.5 percent, respectively. In 2016, total production reached 154 million tons compared with 96 million produced in the United States. India surpassed the United States as the largest dairy producer in 1997, when both countries produced roughly 70 million tons, each. This chart appears in the March 2017 ERS Report “India’s Dairy Sector: Structure, Performance, and Prospects.”

Developing countries, such as China and Brazil, lead global productivity growth

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Raising productivity, rather than expanding resources, has become the major source of growth in global agriculture. Higher productivity has helped make food cheaper and more abundant, and saved resources such as forests from being converted to cropland. However, large differences remain in productivity performance between countries. For example, between 1971 and 2013, U.S. agricultural productivity growth averaged about 1.5 percent a year. Over the past few decades, China and Brazil have emerged among the world leaders in agricultural productivity growth. In Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, agricultural productivity has been relatively stagnant. According to ERS research, strengthening the capacity of national agricultural research and extension systems has been a key factor in improving productivity growth. Long-term investments in agricultural research were especially important to sustaining higher growth rates in large, rapidly developing countries like Brazil and India. Under-investment in agricultural research remains an important barrier to stimulating productivity. The broader environment—such as institutions, infrastructure, and economic and trade policies—has also played an important role in raising agricultural productivity in many parts of the world. This chart appears in the topic page for International Agricultural Productivity, updated January 2017.

Trade liberalization and regulatory cooperation have facilitated growth in United States-Mexico agricultural trade beyond the NAFTA Period

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

As the United States and Mexico liberalized their bilateral trade, they continued to cooperate on sanitary, phytosanitary, and other regulatory issues affecting the agricultural sector. For example, new phytosanitary protocols (measures for the control of plant and animal diseases) enabled the export of Mexican avocados to the United States, while a coordinated campaign by all three NAFTA governments established a harmonized approach to mitigating the risks associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, often referred to as mad cow disease). Together, this trade liberalization and continuing regulatory cooperation provided the policy setting for an increase in U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade. Between 1993 and 2015, U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico grew from $3.6 billion to $17.7 billion, while Mexican agricultural exports to the United States increased from $2.7 billion to $21.0 billion. This chart appears in the ERS report, Opportunities for Making U.S.-Mexico Agricultural Trade More Agile released in August 2016.

Russia forecast to become the world’s top wheat exporter in 2016/17

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In 2016/17 (July-June marketing year), virtually all major wheat–exporting countries in the world (United States, Australia, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan) have been enjoying near perfect weather conditions, and most are likely to have record or near-record wheat output this year. Among them, Russia is expected to have by far the largest wheat harvest in its history, despite having a much smaller area devoted to wheat than it did during its historical highs in the 1960s and 70s. One big exception to this upbeat wheat production outlook is the western part of the European continent where poor weather has undermined the quality and quantity of the wheat harvest this year. Record wheat output in Russia combined with its price-competitiveness—Black Sea wheat is currently by far the cheapest in the world—is expected to propel Russia to become the world’s top wheat exporter this year at 30 million tons, unseating the European Union, which became the world leader in 2013/14. While this year’s developments are driven in part by a poor EU wheat harvest, Russia has been gaining wheat export share for several years, alongside the EU, its main competitor and the top exporter over the previous three years. The gains by Russia and the EU in the global wheat market come mainly at the expense of the United States, whose share of world wheat trade is trending lower. This chart is based on the August 2016 Wheat Outlook report, using information from the Production, Supply, and Distribution database of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Corn exports by major U.S. competitors continue to surge

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Although the United States remains the world?s largest corn exporter, exports by major U.S. competitors have gained increasing shares of the world market since the mid-2000s. The decline in U.S. corn market share has corresponded with the increased use of corn to produce ethanol in the United States, while sustained, relatively strong corn prices have sparked more production in competitor countries.? In 2012/13, U.S. exports are forecast to slip to 26.0 million tons, the lowest since 1971/72, because of drought damage to the U.S. corn harvest. ?In 2012/13, production prospects have improved in Brazil and Argentina, the largest U.S. competitors.? Brazil has been exporting corn at a record pace because tight soybean supplies have allowed a shift of port capacity to corn. Argentina?s corn exports are expected to increase following the March 2013 corn harvest, and are now forecast at a record 19.5 million tons. Ukraine?s corn export prospects remain strong for 2012/13, following the sharp increase in exports in 2011/12. India?s exports, fueled largely by increased adoption of hybrid corn, are also forecast to remain strong in the current price environment.? This chart is adapted from the Feed Grain Chart Gallery published with Feed Outlook: January 2013, FDS-13a.

Global cotton stockpiles beginning to decline

Thursday, September 1, 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.

U.S. soybean exports have decreased

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

World cotton consumption expected to exceed production for second consecutive year

Thursday, September 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.

Food use of grain in Sub-Saharan Africa is down this year

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, coarse grains, including corn, sorghum and millet, are a prominent part of the diet and are supplied mostly from domestic production. Wheat and rice play a smaller role and a significant portion of those grains are imported. In 2015/16, weather was influenced by a strong El Nino in the Pacific, and rainfall patterns shifted, leaving several major Sub-Saharan production areas in drought. Coarse grain production in the region in 2015/16 is estimated to be down about 14 percent from the previous year?s record output. Production was sharply reduced, especially in the populous countries of South Africa, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Wealthier countries such as South Africa can offset much of the production drop through reduced exports, increased imports, and drawing on stocks held over from the previous harvest. Ethiopia is expected to boost imports, especially wheat. The sharp drop in production in Sudan could be mostly reflected in reduced food consumption. This chart is from the April 2016 Feed Outlook report.

China dominates world apple production

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Apples are produced commercially in more than 90 countries worldwide, with annual combined global production of about 80 million metric tons. China is the world?s largest producer, accounting for nearly half of the global output and producing nearly 10 times the volume of the United States, which produces the world?s second largest apple crop. China?s large production volume is supported by the country?s vast production area. However, U.S. yields are nearly double the average achieved in China. Area expansion in China has slowed over the past decade but per-hectare yields have improved, aiding the country?s production to continue to climb. This chart is from the Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook, March 2016.

For berries, the price and quantity purchased is highly seasonal

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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.

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