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NAPERVILLE, Ill.,: China is on track to be the leading international buyer of U.S. agricultural products for a third consecutive year, as the total value of exported goods reached record levels in the first half of 2022.
Some of that can be explained by increased trade volumes of certain items, particularly beef, but much of the boost can also be attributed to significantly higher prices this year versus last.
Data published by the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday showed U.S. agricultural and related product exports to China reached $17.5 billion between January and June (H1), up 15% from last year’s record for the period.
That surpasses the full-year totals from both 2018 and 2019, when China was largely shunning U.S. goods and prices were low. Soybeans accounted for 29% of this year’s H1 value of exports to China, corn 18%, cotton 11% and sorghum 9%.
Prices were already high in 2021, but 2022 started off at even steeper rates. The exported cost of U.S. corn to China in H1 2022 was 21% higher than in H1 last year, soybeans 23% higher and cotton 34% higher.,
The 9.7 million tonnes of U.S. corn shipped to China in H1 2022 is down 24% from last year, though it would have been by far a full-year record in any other year. H1 soy exports at 8.8 million tonnes were up 15% on the year and cotton shipments of 800,000 tonnes were up a whopping 71%.
But that follows much weaker exports to China in late 2021, likely due to a combination of high prices, easing demand from the feed sector and slowing economic activity. U.S. corn, soybean and cotton exports to China in the current marketing year are below the prior year’s levels.
Through June, corn and soybean shipments to China in the 2021-22 marketing year that began Sept. 1 were down 33% and 20%, respectively. Cotton shipments were down 10% between August 2021 and June 2022.
China has been relatively quiet in recent weeks when it comes to buying U.S. corn, soybeans and cotton for 2022-23, though there were unconfirmed rumors floating around on Thursday of more bean purchases. China normally ramps up new-crop soy bookings each August.
China is the world’s largest consumer and producer of pork, though it had to turn to U.S. supplies when severe disease spread through its hog herd four years ago. However, that trade flow peaked in 2020, and U.S. pork shipments to China in H1 2022 plunged 53% on the year to 460,300 tonnes.
China’s increasing taste for U.S. beef has replaced some of the pork losses, as H1 2022 exports by volume surged 49% from H1 2021. U.S. beef and beef product exports to China in H1 of 120,500 tonnes amassed over $1 billion in value, the fifth largest item of the year behind soybeans, corn, cotton and sorghum.