US Ag exports dip in 2023 despite overall trade growth

Feb 12, 2024


In 2023, U.S. agricultural and related product exports saw a notable decline, reaching $191 billion, a 10% drop from the record in 2022. This decrease, hitting a three-year low, was attributed to declining commodity prices and shipment volumes. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that bulk commodity exports, encompassing major items like soybeans, corn, wheat, and cotton, hit a 10-year low by volume, down 17% from 2022, marking the largest year-on-year decline since 1985.

The challenges were particularly pronounced in satisfying Chinese demand, with competition intensifying from key suppliers. Brazil, a major competitor, significantly increased its corn and soy shipments in 2023, reaching 158 million metric tons, a 29% rise from the previous year.

China's declining share in U.S. soybean shipments added to the challenges, dropping to 38%, the lowest since 2002. Despite these setbacks in the agricultural sector, total U.S. exports, including goods and services, increased by 1% in 2023, reaching a new record of $3.05 trillion. However, this growth rate was notably smaller compared to the robust 18% and 19% observed in 2022 and 2021.

Agriculture and related products accounted for 6.2% of all U.S. exports in 2023, a four-year low and a decrease from shares above 7% in the preceding three years. By value, U.S. bulk commodity exports declined by 22% from the 2022 high, with lower export costs for soybeans and corn, though still higher than in 2021. Wheat export prices dropped by 16%, and cotton prices fell by 19%, accompanied by significant volume declines.

However, there were positive aspects, with soybean meal shipments reaching a record 14.1 million tons, pork and pork product exports rising by 8%, and U.S. ethanol exports increasing by 9% to a four-year high due to a boost in domestic corn processing. The complex landscape of agricultural exports underscores the sector's resilience, even amid challenges and shifting market dynamics.

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