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Agricultural products

Angélica Marrero-Sánchez
(202) 205-2519
Angelica.Marrero@usitc.gov

  To view changing data, hover over or touch the animated graphic below.

Change in 2017 from 2016:

  • U.S. total agricultural exports: Increased by $4.4 billion (3.0 percent) to $153.1 billion
  • U.S. general agricultural  imports: Increased by $8.3 billion (5.9 percent) to $147.4 billion

The value of U.S. agricultural exports rose by $4.4 billion (3.0 percent) to $153.1 billion in 2017, increasing for the second consecutive year after falling sharply in 2015 (table AG1). However, U.S. general imports of agricultural products rose at a faster pace (5.9 percent).  Gains in U.S. agricultural exports were led by increased exports of cotton[1] and cattle and beef,[2] which accounted for over 70 percent of the net increase in U.S. exports in 2017. This increase was slightly offset by a decrease in the value of some U.S. exports, including oilseeds[3] and cereals.[4]

Table AG.1: Agricultural products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Canada
23,139
23,785
22,513
21,878
22,007
129
0.6
    Mexico
18,256
19,495
17,835
17,972
18,697
725
4.0
    China
26,790
25,676
21,580
22,835
21,013
-1,822
-8.0
    Japan
13,265
14,232
12,305
12,024
12,877
852
7.1
    South Korea
5,805
7,458
6,708
6,804
7,437
634
9.3
    Indonesia
2,806
2,913
2,185
2,670
2,895
225
8.4
    India
892
1,094
1,251
1,433
1,886
453
31.6
    Vietnam
2,272
2,541
2,505
2,924
2,794
-130
-4.4
    France
853
826
761
785
746
-39
-5.0
    Italy
1,374
1,419
1,293
1,201
1,172
-29
-2.4
    All other
56,871
59,260
52,166
52,107
55,261
3,154
6.1
        Total domestic exports
152,324
158,700
141,101
142,632
146,784
4,151
2.9
Foreign exports
5,309
5,729
5,543
6,050
6,332
282
4.7
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign)
157,633
164,429
146,644
148,683
153,116
4,433
3.0
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Canada
24,941
26,437
25,286
25,246
26,106
860
3.4
    Mexico
19,296
21,218
23,008
24,887
26,703
1,816
7.3
    China
6,989
7,008
6,802
6,719
7,072
353
5.3
    Japan
763
782
828
916
919
2
0.3
    South Korea
638
673
739
810
844
34
4.2
    Indonesia
2,795
3,561
3,512
3,621
4,319
698
19.3
    India
4,419
4,446
3,847
3,512
4,651
1,139
32.4
    Vietnam
2,765
3,365
3,132
3,519
3,743
223
6.3
    France
4,465
4,690
4,825
5,208
5,588
380
7.3
    Italy
4,232
4,513
4,619
4,822
5,044
222
4.6
    All other
55,354
59,648
60,349
59,891
62,416
2,524
4.2
        Total general imports
126,657
136,341
136,947
139,153
147,406
8,253
5.9

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Note: Import values are based on customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The countries shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. general imports plus U.S. domestic exports) in these products in the current year.

Mexico and Canada continue to be the most important markets for U.S. agricultural products, accounting for a combined 27.7 percent of U.S. domestic exports and 35.8 percent of general imports in 2017. Exports to Mexico rose $725 million (4.0 percent) to $18.7 billion, while gains in exports to Canada were small, increasing only $129 million (0.6 percent) from the previous year to $22.0 billion. In contrast, imports from Mexico increased $1.8 billion (7.3 percent) to the highest level in the last five years, $26.7 billion, while imports from Canada increased $860 million (3.4 percent) to $26.1 billion.

China, Japan, and South Korea are important markets for U.S. agricultural products. Exports to Japan and South Korea contributed a large share of the increase in U.S. agricultural exports. However, the gains in exports of U.S. agricultural products were partially offset by a $1.8 billion (8.0 percent) decrease in exports to China, mainly caused by a decrease in the value of oilseed exports.[5] 

The United States saw an increase in bilateral trade with India in 2017. Both exports and imports increased around 32 percent to attain their highest levels in the last five years, reaching $1.9 billion and $4.7 billion, respectively. Increased exports to India were led by exports of edible nuts[6] and cotton,[7] while the increase in imports from India was driven by imports of shellfish.[8]

U.S. Exports[9]

Total U.S. agricultural exports experienced significant gains in 2016–17, recovering from a 10.8 percent dip in 2015.[10]  On a product basis, U.S. cotton experienced the largest increase in exports in 2017,[11] gaining $1.9 billion (47.2 percent) to reach $5.8 billion. Increased consumption by yarn producers in India, Vietnam, China, and Bangladesh, combined with increased cotton plantings in the United States,[12] contributed to this surge. Limited competition from India, the second-largest cotton exporter, also favored U.S. cotton exports, shifting demand towards U.S. product.[13] 

Table AG.2: Agricultural products: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. domestic exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Cotton, not carded or combed (AG049)
5,592
4,396
3,889
3,959
5,828
1,870
47.2
        Cattle and beef (AG002)
6,100
6,847
5,967
6,070
7,137
1,067
17.6
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Oilseeds (AG032)
21,909
24,219
19,166
23,118
21,887
-1,231
-5.3
        Cereals (AG030)
19,845
22,274
18,505
18,655
18,303
-352
-1.9
    All other
98,877
100,963
93,574
90,832
93,629
2,797
3.1
        Total
152,324
158,700
141,101
142,632
146,784
4,151
2.9
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Shellfish (AG009)
9,116
10,930
9,663
9,962
11,220
1,258
12.6
        Tropical fruit (AG021)
4,391
4,958
5,151
5,539
6,383
844
15.2
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Frozen fruit (AG026)
631
734
893
814
668
-146
-17.9
    All other
112,520
119,718
121,240
122,837
129,134
6,297
5.1
        Total
126,657
136,341
136,947
139,153
147,406
8,253
5.9

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Note: Import values are based on customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

Vietnam and Bangladesh have become the main destinations for U.S. cotton as yarn production increased in these countries.[14]  Exports of U.S. cotton to China, the largest textile producer in the world, also increased in 2017. Demand for high-quality U.S. cotton in China has increased, as Chinese yarn producers desire to blend it with lower-quality cotton produced in China, which has become more available as the country sells old cotton from its domestic reserves.  The lower-quality Chinese cotton is blended with higher-quality U.S. cotton in order to increase the overall quality of Chinese products.[15]   

Increased exports of U.S. cattle and beef to East Asia[16] were attributable largely to increased exports of U.S. beef to Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea, three of the top five U.S. export markets for this product group. Overall, the value of U.S. beef exports increased by $1.1 billion (17.8 percent) in 2017. Major factors were increased U.S. supply and strong demand in export markets, combined with tight supplies in Australia, the United States’ main competitor in Asian markets, and problems with Brazil’s beef supply.[17] While overall demand for U.S. beef in the Japanese market continued to grow, [18]  there was a change in the composition of the demand; an increase in tariffs on frozen beef caused a significant shift to purchases of fresh or chilled beef. [19]

U.S. exports of agricultural products to South Korea were led by an increase in exports of U.S. fresh beef, and the United States regained its place as South Korea’s main supplier. Australia, South Korea’s second-largest supplier, experienced short supply because of a drought and faces higher South Korean tariffs than U.S. beef, which had a 5.3 percent tariff advantage under the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS).[20] Additionally, exports of U.S. pork to South Korea in 2017 reached the second-highest level since 2008, as demand continued to increase. U.S. pork enters South Korea duty-free under KORUS.[21] 

U.S. total exports of agricultural products to Mexico increased $725 million (4.0 percent), to $18.7 billion in 2017, mainly driven by increasing consumption of cereals. Specifically, the increase was led by exports of wheat, which increased 40.9 percent to $860 million in 2017 as Mexican millers’ demand for high quality, soft wheat for milling rose in this period. Increased exports of corn, which rose by 3.5 percent to $2.7 billion, are attributable to Mexico’s growing livestock industry.[22] Even as Mexico has started  to diversify its corn suppliers by importing more from Brazil and Argentina, Mexico’s population growth, along with growth in the meat and poultry sectors, pushed demand up, and the United States held its place as top corn supplier.[23] 

The increase in U.S. agricultural exports to many markets was partially offset by a decrease in exports of soybeans to China. Exports of U.S. soybeans to China dropped 13 percent in 2017, as China turned to alternate suppliers, such as Brazil, due to more competitive prices and higher protein content.[24] In addition, concerns over the presence of foreign material in U.S. soybeans, which caused China to tighten phytosanitary import requirements for U.S. product,[25] have shifted demand towards Brazilian and Argentine soybeans.[26]  Nonetheless, soybeans were the top U.S. agricultural export to China in 2017,[27] and the country continued to be the main market for U.S. soybeans, accounting for over 57 percent of all U.S. soybean exports.[28]  

Similarly, exports of cereals declined in 2017, [29] led by a 7 percent decrease in the value of exports of corn and a 22 percent decrease in exports of grain sorghum.[30]  The decrease in the value of corn exports reflects lower corn prices and increased competition from South American suppliers, Brazil, and Argentina.[31]  The decline in sorghum exports reflects a reduction in U.S. production as farmers opted for alternative, higher priced crops such as soybeans or cotton. There was also a decrease in exports to China, as lower domestic corn prices in the country have shifted demand away from U.S. grain sorghum.[32]

U.S. Imports

Increases in U.S. agricultural imports were led by imports of shellfish[33] and tropical fruit.[34] On a country basis, the increase was led by an increase in imports from Canada, Mexico, and India.

Imports of shellfish increased by $1.3 billion (12.6 percent) and were driven by higher volume and higher prices of shrimp imports,[35] mostly from India, supported by strong consumer demand in the United States.[36]  Record shrimp production in India as well as increased demand in the United States has led India to become the top exporter of shrimp to the United States.[37] 

Imports of tropical fruit rose $844 million (15.2 percent), driven by an increase in the price of avocados, mainly from Mexico, which has reached the highest level since 1999.[38]  Avocado prices have been increasing as a result of tight supplies due to a smaller crop[39] in Mexico and California,[40] combined with weather events that affected avocado growing regions,[41] as well as increased demand in China, Japan, and Europe.[42] 

Imports of agricultural products from Canada were led by increased imports of wheat, as drought conditions slowed production in the United States and higher stocks led to lower prices for Canadian wheat.[43] Imports of agricultural products from Mexico were driven by a value and quantity increase in imports of avocados, as discussed above, and other fresh fruit,[44] particularly raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. It was also driven by malt beverages,[45] as Mexican beer continues to gain popularity in the United States.[46] 

There was an 18 percent decrease in U.S. imports of frozen fruits,[47] driven by a decline in imports of frozen wild blueberries and mangoes. U.S. imports of frozen wild blueberries fell in value and quantity due to reduced demand for the fruit, which created a global production surplus and, in turn, caused a decline in prices.[48] Frozen mangoes have become increasingly popular in the United States but face competition from fresh or dried, ready-to-eat mangoes in chunks or slices.[49] In 2017, imports of frozen mangoes decreased 23 percent, or $12.2 million to $41.1 million, while imports of fresh mangoes increased 6 percent to $426.1 million, and imports of dried mangoes increased 32 percent to $124.2 million.[50]

 

[1] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG049; accessed February 8, 2018).

[2] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG002; accessed February 8, 2018).

[3] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG032; accessed February 8, 2018).

[4] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG013; accessed February 8, 2018).

[5] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG032; accessed February 8, 2018).

[6] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG020; accessed February 8, 2018).

[7] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG049; accessed February 8, 2018).

[8] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG009; accessed February 8, 2018).

[9] As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.

[10] USITC, 2015 Trade Shifts, 2016.

[11] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG049; accessed February 8, 2018).

[12] Belgum, “Cotton Prices Holding Stable,” August 3, 2017.

[13] Belgum, “Cotton Prices Holding Stable,” August 3, 2017.

[14] Belgum, “Cotton Prices Holding Stable,” August 3, 2017.

[15] USDA, FAS, China: Cotton and Products Update, September 1, 2017.

[16] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG002; accessed February 8, 2018).

[17] CBB, “U.S. Beef Exports,” February 14, 2018; Dumas, “U.S. Beef Supply Growing,” December 12, 2018.

[18] Japan has a special safeguard (SSG) measure for fresh/chilled beef and frozen beef that raises the tariff from 38.5 percent to 50 percent on these products for imports from countries without an economic partnership agreement (EPA). Two conditions must be met to trigger the duty increase. First, cumulative quarterly imports of fresh/chilled beef or frozen beef (calculated separately) from the world must exceed 117 percent of the previous year’s imports. Second, cumulative quarterly imports of fresh/chilled beef or frozen beef (calculated separately) from non-EPA countries, combined with imports from countries with an EPA that are in excess of the tariff rate quota limits, must exceed 117 percent of the previous year’s imports. In 2017, both conditions were met for U.S. frozen beef, resulting in an automatic tariff increase. For more information, see USDA, FAS, Japan: Japan’s Tariff on U.S. Frozen Beef Reverts, April 1, 2018.

[19] Burak et al., “The Japanese Beef Market’s Lessons,” January 19, 2018; Cislo and Takahashi, “Higher Tax Hasn’t Curbed Japan’s Appetite,” October 12, 2017. 

[20] MLA, “Australian Beef Exports to South Korea,” October 10, 2017.

[21] USMEF, “New Records for U.S. Beef Export Value,” February 7, 2018.

[22] USDA, FAS, Mexico: Grain and Feed Annual, March 14, 2017.

[23] USDA, FAS, Mexico: Grain and Feed Annual, March 14, 2017.

[24] Gu and Thukral, “Soy Source: Brazil’s Share of Soybean Exports,” January 25, 2018; AgFax, “Global Markets: Oilseeds—China Key to Slow Pace,” January 12, 2018; Good, “USDA Trade Data Update: Focus on Soybeans and Grains,” January 16, 2018.

[25] In September 2017, China raised concerns over the presence of weed seeds in U.S. soybean cargoes. Previous specifications for soybean imports in China had allowed for up to 2 percent of dirt or weed seeds to be present in the cargo, which has now been reduced to 1 percent. China announced that starting on January 1, 2018, it will expedite the entry of shipments containing up to 1 percent on foreign material, while it will hold shipments containing more than 1 percent of foreign material for testing. For more information, see Polansek and Hirtzer, “Half of U.S. soy exports to China,” December 27, 2017 and Hirtzer, “UPDATE 2-China tightens import specifications,” December 20, 2017.

[26] Polansek and Hirtzer, “Half of U.S. Soy Exports to China,” December 27, 2017; Plume, “U.S. Soy Exports Hit Seven-Month Low,” February 1, 2018.

[27] USDA, FAS, “Top U.S. Agricultural Exports in 2017,” March 23, 2018.

[28] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheading 1201.90; accessed April 3, 2018).

[29] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG013; accessed February 8, 2018).

[30] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheadings 1005 and 1007; accessed April 23, 2018).

[31] Batres-Marquez, “Canada, China, and Mexico Top Markets for U.S.,” March 1, 2018.

[32] Tomson, “US Sorghum Exports to China,” April 19, 2018; Demaree, “U.S. 2016–17 Feed Grains in All Forms,” October 9, 2017.

[33] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG013; accessed February 8, 2018).

[34] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG021; accessed February 8, 2018).

[35] FAO, “Low Farmed Shrimp Output for 2017,” December 4, 2017.

[36] FAO, “Strong Imports in East Asia,” March 14, 2018.

[37] Behera, “India Emerges Largest Shrimp Exporter to USA,” February 14, 2018; Kumar, “Demand for Shrimp May Push India’s Seafood,” September 11, 2017.

[38] Gillespie, “Avocado Prices Soar,” September 11, 2017. 

[39] Avocado trees tend to adopt alternate bearing cycles, which result in a small crop of large avocados in “off-years” compared to a large crop of small avocados in “on-years.” For more information, see California Avocado Commission, “Alternate Bearing Cycles” (accessed July 1, 2018).

[40] Durisin and Perez, “Avocado Prices are Skyrocketing,” April 28, 2017.

[41] Economist, “Droughts, Storms and Global Demand,” January 25, 2018.

[42] Daniels, “Avocado Sales Could More Than Double This Year,” January 10, 2018.

[43] Turner, “2017 Durum Wheat Prices,” December 30, 2017.

[44] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG024; accessed February 8, 2018).

[45] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG040; accessed February 8, 2018).

[46] Bernot, “How America Fell in Love” (accessed July 1, 2018).

[47] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (digest AG026; accessed February 8, 2018).

[48] Dodson, “Market Glut, Low Prices,” March 2, 2018.

[49] Gestión, “Consumo de mango se triplicó en diez años” [Mango consumption tripled in 10 years], August 6, 2018.

[50] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheadings 0811.90.52, 0804.50.40 and 0804.50.80; accessed May 4, 2018).

[51] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheadings 0811.90.52, 0804.50.40 and 0804.50.80; accessed May 4, 2018).

 

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