Ag exports maintain growing trade surplus

Undersecretary McKinney visits Colombia and Panama in his continued efforts to expand agricultural trade.

U.S. agricultural exports continued on a strong note in the latest quarter, although the November 2018 forecast is down slightly from realized 2017 levels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to look for new market opportunities to expand the purchases of U.S. agricultural products.

According to the latest outlook for U.S. agricultural trade released by USDA's Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service, fiscal 2018 agricultural exports are projected to be $140.0 billion, up $1 billion from the August forecast, largely due to expected increases in corn and dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS).

The agency raised the livestock, poultry and dairy export projection by $200 million to $29.7 billion largely due to higher forecasts for beef, poultry and animal products such as lard and tallow.

Higher corn volumes and unit values and strong demand for DDGS are largely responsible for driving grain and feed exports up $1.0 billion to $29.4 billion. Soybean export volumes are forecasted to add $200 million to $24.1 billion, which offsets expected declines in soybean meal and oil.

The agriculture industry’s trade surplus is expected to grow 8%, from $21.3 billion last year to $23 billion in 2018, according to the outlook report. However, the surplus is expected to decline by $500 million from the August survey for fiscal 2018 compared to the November estimates.

“Much of this expected success can be attributed to robust sales to our East Asian and North American trading partners,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “China is again shaping up to be our top market, led by continued strong soybean sales, while Canada and Mexico remain our second- and third-largest markets, respectively. We’re expecting exports to grow in the coming year to all of our top three markets.”

McKinney visits Colombia, Panama

The idea behind the new undersecretary for trade position at USDA was to be in the “million mile” club -- to ensure that no stone is left unturned in efforts to increase agricultural exports worldwide.

While speaking from Panama, USDA trade undersecretary Ted McKinney said he’s well on his way to accumulating those miles after visiting four countries in his first six weeks in office: India, Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

“We’ve got a terrific ag surplus in the U.S.,” McKinney said. He added that, in his conversations with both government officials and buyers, there is a strong recognition and appreciation for the reliability, quality, consistency and volume of supply of U.S. products.

Colombia and Panama entered into free trade agreements with the U.S. in 2012, and those agreements have resulted in enhanced trading opportunities with the countries and present a two-way street on trade.

McKinney said there was no indication about whether to revisit either of the trade deals, but in order to keep free trade working successfully, it is important to have ongoing dialogue and exchanges with trading partners both candidly and firmly so everyone knows the rules and will play by the rules.

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