US swaps top ag products trading partner

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock.com
© iStock.com

Related tags: International trade, Us

In a change from recent years, Canada has returned to being the US’ top trading partner for agricultural products including animal feed and feed ingredients.

Data on the US-Canada import and export market for agricultural commodities was recently released in a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report​ from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA’s) Foreign Agricultural Service.

“In 2015, Canada is once again, and expected to continue, as the number one destination for US exports of agricultural products, with a total value of $21bn,”​ said USDA officials. For the past three years Canada has been in second place, in terms of being a destination of agricultural exports from the US.  

From 2012-2014 China instead was the top agricultural export market for the US, they said.

In 2015, China dropped to become the second place export market with totals of $20.2bn, said officials. This was followed by the agricultural export market in Mexico, which had sales of $17.7bn in US exports.

Also in 2015, the US imported $21.7bn worth of agricultural products from Canada, they said.

Import/export details

Although Canada and China mark the top two agricultural export markets for the US, the products going both places fill different roles, said officials. “While Canada is predominantly a high value market, US exports to China are dominated by exports of bulk commodities,”​ they added.

Consumer-oriented goods include animal products like beef, pork and processed poultry, they said. And about 16% of the agricultural goods Canada imports are intermediate goods including items like animal feed and seeds.

“With a 27% market share in 2015, and a value of $16.8 billion, Canada continues to remain by far the top destination for US exports of high-value agricultural products,”​ they said. “These consumer-oriented agricultural products are foods typically sold directly in supermarkets or used in restaurants.”

Mexico has the second largest import record of similar products from the US at $8.4bn, they said. The EU-28 comes third with totals of about $6bn.

However, the majority of the agricultural items sold from the US to China, about 70%, are bulk commodities including soybeans and grains, they said. “Only 21% of exports are intermediate goods (with distillers grains and hides and skins the top exports in this category) and only less than 10% are high-value agricultural products,”​ they added.

Market trends

The US has seen a down-turn overall in its agricultural export, said officials. Between 2014 and 2015, the export market dropped by 11.3% equating to about $133bn.

“During the same time period, US agricultural exports to Canada declined by only 5%, while US exports to China declined by 16.6%, to Mexico by 8.7% and to Japan by 15.1%,” ​they said. “This fact demonstrates the importance of the Canadian market for American exports, a resilient mature market that continues to support substantial levels of trade.”

Europe and Japan have dwindled as important markets for US agricultural goods since the 1980s, they said. Instead, Canada and Mexico have become a larger part of the agricultural export market for the US.

“The main reason for strong increases in trade with Canada was the passage of the Canada – United States Free Trade Agreement in 1988, followed a few years later by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),”​ they said. “These trade agreements eliminated almost all tariffs and trade restrictions on US exports to Canada for more than two decades.”

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