Robust global demand, high commodity prices, and increased US competitiveness were cited as the reasons behind the record exports of corn, sorghum, beef, food preparations, and other products.
Other products such as soybeans, soybean meal, wheat, and dairy also contributed significantly to the early-year export levels.
At the current pace, there is a strong possibility of a record-breaking year for US agricultural exports, said the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The agriculture, food, and related industries are vital parts of the US economy, contributing an estimated $1.109 trillion to the US gross domestic product (GDP), it reported. Those sectors provided employment for 22.2 million people in the US in 2019, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.
US agricultural exports have grown significantly within the past decades, becoming an increasingly important component of the agriculture industry. From 2000 to 2020, US agricultural exports grew from US$56bn to $150bn, reported the US government agency.
Record purchases from China
Global demand is rising, driven in part due to record purchases by China as it rebuilds its swine herd from African Swine Fever and demand for animal feed surges, said the USDA.
"The early 2020 signing of the Phase One agreement between the US and China created a pathway for US producers to step in and fill both the demand for pork, beef, and poultry products as well as the rising demand for animal feed.
"Production shortfalls reduced competition from feed exporters in South America, which also had an important effect on trade in the early months of 2021.
“The combination of increased global demand and reduced supply has led to price increases in the past year that look to benefit US exporters,” reads the report.
Two additional major trade agreements were also implemented in 2020, noted the USDA.
The US-Japan Trade Agreement entered into force at the beginning of the year, providing tariff reductions for a wide range of agricultural products including beef, pork, and dairy, as well as preferential market access provisions for others including wheat and wheat products. While tariffs on many products were eliminated immediately, others will be gradually reduced in the coming years, it said.
The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) entered into force in mid-2020, containing provisions to expand market access for US exporters of dairy, poultry, eggs, and others while strengthening science-based trade rules and other processes. “These agreements and the Phase One agreement with China serve to facilitate trade with four of the US’ top trading partners and will have lasting positive benefits for agricultural producers in 2021 and beyond.”