A global economic slowdown will combine with inflation, higher interest rates, and the strong dollar to erode U.S. food and agriculture exports by 12 percent through fiscal 2026, projected the USDA on Wednesday.
The 2020 agreement that de-escalated the Sino-U.S. trade war set unrealistically high goals for U.S. exports to China and failed to deliver on them by large margins, say analysts. Overall, China bought just 57 percent of the goods and services it committed to buying as part of the “phase one” agreement. The agriculture sector, at 83 percent, came closest to reaching its export goal.
China accounted for 95 percent of the $27 billion in U.S. farm export sales that were lost in 2018 and 2019 as a result of the trade war begun by President Trump, said a USDA report. Sales to China rebounded after the "phase one" trade agreement, but U.S. market share has remained lower than before the tit-for-tat tariffs.
It's an open question if U.S. ag exports were as large as forecast in fiscal 2021, but a running tally by the USDA says they were the largest ever. Shipments to foreign buyers totaled $160.2 billion with one month to go in the fiscal year, topping the record of $156.8 billion set in fiscal 2014.
Exporters sold $15.2 billion worth of American farm products to China in the first six months of 2021, raising the possibility of record sales this year, wrote economist David Widmar on Monday on the Agricultural Economic Insights blog. Sales are on pace to hit $33.7 billion, with some of the most active months for sales — during and after the fall harvest — still to come.
Thanks to high demand for American-grown corn, soybeans, and meat, U.S. farm exports will soar to a record $164 billion this year, far above the current mark of $152.3 billion, set in 2014, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday. China, reclaiming its spot as the No. 1 customer, would account for $1 of every $5 in overseas sales.
By a wide margin, soybeans are the most valuable U.S. farm export, accounting for 18 cents of every $1 in sales during calendar 2020, said the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service on Wednesday.
China failed to meet its "phase one" target for imports of U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood products despite a surge in purchases that began late last summer, said the Peterson Institute for International Economics on Thursday.
While China may not meet the first-year target under the "phase one" trade agreement, it is buying huge amounts of U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood products that could total $31 billion over 12 months, said Iowa State economist Wendong Zhang at a farm conference on Thursday. Neither Zhang nor Ohio State professor Ian Sheldon said they expected the Biden administration to roll back U.S. tariffs on China in the near term.
Despite dry weather at the start of the planting season, Brazil is headed for its second record-setting soybean harvest in a row, said USDA analysts, who forecast the 2020/21 crop at 133 million metric tonnes, up nearly 6 percent from last year.
The "phase one" agreement that de-escalated the Sino-U.S. trade war is not paying off in massive sales of U.S. products, including food and agricultural exports, to China or in the long-term reform of Chinese trade practices, said Chad Brown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "(President) Trump's trade war has failed to address what really ails the U.S.-China trade relationship," wrote Brown in a blog. "It is time for a new approach."
Thanks to a buying spree, China is far and away the top customer for U.S. corn six weeks into the marketing year, said chief executive Ryan LeGrand of the U.S. Grains Council on Thursday. Its purchases of 10.4 million tonnes for delivery during 2020/21 are twice as large as sales to date to Mexico, usually the No. 1 importer.
Exporters sold nearly 2.7 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in the first half of this month for delivery to China, said the USDA on Thursday. A "significant" sale was reported on each of the 10 business days beginning on Sept. 3, said the Foreign Agricultural Service.
Recent increases in market prices are making soybeans more attractive, and farmers will respond by expanding soybean acreage by nearly 5 percent in 2021 while holding steady on corn acreage, said Farm Futures on Wednesday.
China is closer than commonly realized to fulfilling its commitment to buy vast amounts of U.S. food and ag products this year, said U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday, rebutting criticism that the "phase one" trade agreement is faltering. "If you had to bet right now, you'd say they're going to do it."
China can satisfy two objectives — filling a huge gap in its meat supply and complying with the "phase one" trade agreement with the United States — by buying American-grown pork, say two Iowa State University economists.
The “phase one” trade agreement with China assures sales of “up to $50 billion in agriculture alone,” said President Trump at a White House signing ceremony on Wednesday, although Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said sales would depend on domestic demand and U.S. prices. A senior administration official said later that the pact did not require China to remove retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm goods — a potential barrier to exports.
Three weeks after he slammed Brazil and Argentina for actions "not good for our farmers," President Trump reversed his decision to impose high tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the South American nations, said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on social media over the weekend. "The relationship between the United States and Brazil has never been Stronger!" tweeted Trump on the same day.
In what may be an opening in the Sino-U.S. trade war, a group of Chinese officials will tour U.S. farms next week, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday.