U.S. farm exports to be smallest in six years
Smaller sales to China accounts for one-third of the estimated decline of $14.7 billion in U.S. exports from last year.
"In general, strong competition and reduced demand have contributed to falling U.S. export sales," said USDA chief economist Robert Johansson at USDA's annual Ag Outlook Forum.
"However, much of the reduction in value this year compared to FY2015 is due to lower prices for grain and feed exports."
Canada would replace China as the number one export market for U.S. crops and livestock for the first time since 2010, with imports forecast for $20.8 billion this year. China and Mexico would tie for second place at around $17.5 billion. In 2015, China bought $22.5 billion of U.S. ag exports.
China holds more than half of the world stockpile of corn. "We expect China to slow imports of corn and corn substitutes to prevent its stockpile from growing even larger and to reduce those stocks," said Johansson.
China is the leading market for distillers' dried grains and spurred a boom in U.S. sorghum.
"In 2014, China imported a combined total of 20 million tonnes of sorghum and barley, projected to fall to 14.5 million tonnes in 2015 and then to 9.6 million tonnes in 2016," said Johansson.
China, the buyer of two-thirds of soybeans on the world market, was expected to remain a large importer of soybeans.
U.S. farm exports were a record $152.3 billion in 2014, before going into a slump along with commodity prices and U.S. farm income.
One-fifth of U.S. farm production is exported. The forecast for this year's export is lowest since $108.5 billion in 2010. ■