Despite a wide-spread, lengthy drought in the US among other challenges, fiscal 2013 agricultural exports are projected to achieve a record $143.5 billion in sales, according to the most recent Outlook for Agricultural Trade released Aug. 30 by the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service. Livestock, poultry and dairy product exports, however, are forecast marginally lower as declines in dairy, pork and poultry outweigh growth in beef.

Grain and feed exports are expected to increase, driven primarily by higher wheat volume and value, but also supported by higher corn-unit values. Based on record soybean and soybean meal prices attributed to tight exportable supplies, the oilseeds forecast is up from 2012.

Meanwhile, US agricultural imports in 2013 are projected to reach a record $117 billion, up from the revised 2012 forecast of $106.5 billion. The forecast trade balance for fiscal 2013 shows a surplus of $26.5 billion, down $3.5 billion from the revised 2012 forecast. The revised trade surplus for 2012 is $30 billion.

Livestock, poultry, dairy

For fiscal 2013, livestock, poultry and dairy exports are forecast marginally lower ($200 million) at $29.9 billion from the previous year as declines in dairy, pork and poultry outweigh growth in beef. Pork exports are forecast $100 million lower to $5.6 billion as higher prices and tighter exportable supplies are expected to impact shipments to more price-sensitive markets in Latin America and the Caribbean.

US poultry exports are predicted to slip by $50 million to $6.2 billion amid higher unit values and tighter exportable supplies. Exports to Mexico, Canada and Angola, however, are expected to remain strong. Beef exports are forecast to increase $200 million to $5 billion on higher volumes and unit values. The fiscal 2012 export value for livestock, poultry and dairy products has increased $500 million from May to $30.1 billion with gains in dairy, poultry and pork.

US ag exports forecast for China have increased $2.5 billion to a record $21 billion. China is expected to finish the year as the top US market after overtaking Canada last year. The increase in the forecast is a result of better-than-expected shipments of pork, corn, cotton and distiller’s dried grains (DDGs).

Meanwhile, Russia is forecast up $200 million on greater beef, pork and live-animal shipments.

2012 ag imports

US imports of agricultural products in fiscal 2012 are reduced by $1 billion to $106.5 billion from the May estimate of $107.5 billion. This still represents a 13-percent increase from fiscal 2011. Zero growth in US personal consumption expenditures for food and beverages (purchased for home use) during the past four quarters has slowed import demand for agricultural products. During the past year, the index for food quantity consumed at home has also been flat.

Livestock and dairy import projections in 2012 are up $200 million from the preceding forecast as imported cattle, pork and dairy products increase in value and volume. In 2013, however, cattle imports are expected to be down while beef, pork and dairy products are expected to increase in value and volume. Cattle imports are forecast lower at 1.9 million head as improved pasture conditions and declining inventories in Mexico slow shipments. Beef and veal imports are forecast higher in 2013 to nearly $4.2 billion due to strong demand for processing beef and lower domestic cow slaughter. Pork imports are up $50 million in 2013 as tight domestic supply and high prices boost shipments from Canada. The overall boost in 2013 of livestock and dairy products is $700 million, raising total imports to $14.1 billion from the projected $13.4 billion in 2012.

Canada and Mexico combined lead suppliers of agricultural products to the US with respect to horticulture commodities, livestock and meats, grains and feed, and oilseeds. For livestock and meats, Canada, Mexico, Oceania and the EU are the leaders.

Beef export value edges higher

Mexico remained the leading volume market for US beef exports in the first half of the year but slipped to third behind Canada and Japan in value, totaling 103,751 metric tons valued at $446 million. These totals were down 18 percent and 6 percent, respectively, compared to the first half of 2011. June was the slowest month of the year for beef exports to Mexico, reflecting a very unfavorable exchange rate.

A sluggish economy and an oversupply of domestic beef have also slowed beef exports to South Korea for all major beef suppliers. US exports to South Korea fell 24 percent in volume (65,963 metric tons) in the first half of the year and 19 percent in value ($309.2 million). June results in South Korea also reflected some impact from the April 24 bovine spongiform encephalopathy case.

In Japan, exports were down 6 percent in volume (72,443 metric tons) but up 14 percent in value ($476 million). For the second consecutive month, exports to Japan topped the $100 million mark ($105.3 million), dipping only slightly from the 2012 high reached in May.

Exports to leading-value market Canada were down 7 percent in volume (80,859 metric tons) in the first half but increased 12 percent in value ($519.9 million); the Middle East was down 8 percent in volume (74,030 metric tons) but 11 percent higher in value ($170 million); the ASEAN region was down 8 percent in volume (31,826 metric tons) but 16 percent higher in value ($134.6 million); and Hong Kong was down 10 percent in volume (24,073 metric tons) but 16 percent higher in value ($135.9 million).

US beef exports to Russia were up 17 percent in volume (38,210 metric tons) and 57 percent in value ($162.2 million) the first half, reflecting Russia’s growing appetite for higher-quality, US muscle cuts and the expanded tariff-rate quota for US beef. Exceptional growth in Chile and a steady increase in exports to Peru and Guatemala pushed results in Central and South America 34 percent higher in volume (17,187 metric tons) and 82 percent higher in value ($64 million).

US lamb exports ended 34 percent lower in volume (6,215 metric tons) and 19 percent lower in value ($12.5 million) in the first half of 2012. June results were lower than a year ago, but were encouraging as export volume (1,106 metric tons) was the highest since January and value ($2.5 million) was the second-highest of the year.