US Food Export

US Food Export, A Comprehensive Analysis

How U.S. Food Exports Reached Record Levels in 2021: A Comprehensive Analysis

The U.S. agricultural industry posted its highest annual export levels ever recorded in 2021, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 14.6 percent. This article will examine the factors behind this remarkable achievement, the main products and markets that contributed to the growth, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for U.S. food exporters.

According to the Department of Commerce, exports of U.S. farm and food products to the world totaled $177 billion in 2021, topping the 2020 total by 18 percent. This is a major boost for the economy as a whole, and particularly for rural communities, as agricultural exports stimulate local economic activity, support producers’ bottom lines, and support more than 1.3 million jobs on the farm and in related industries such as food processing and transportation.


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Several factors

Several factors contributed to the record-breaking performance of U.S. food exports in 2021. First, the global demand for food increased as economies recovered from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers sought more variety and quality in their diets. Second, the U.S. agricultural sector was resilient and adaptable in the face of supply chain disruptions, transportation bottlenecks, labor shortages, and weather shocks. Third, the Biden-Harris Administration pursued a proactive trade agenda that aimed to restore certainty, strengthen relationships, address barriers, and expand opportunities for U.S. agricultural products around the world.

The growth in U.S. food exports was driven by gains across all major commodity groups. As a share of total export value, the top four categories equally accounted for about 90 percent of total exports between 2017 and 2021. These categories include grains and feeds; oilseeds and products; animals (e.g., livestock and poultry), meats, and products; and horticultural products.

The grains and feeds category recorded the largest year-to-year growth, increasing 40 percent from 2020 to $43 billion in 2021. This was mainly due to higher exports of corn, wheat, sorghum, rice, and distillers grains. The main markets for U.S. grains and feeds were China, Mexico, Japan, Colombia, and South Korea.

The oilseeds and products category grew by 18 percent from 2020 to $38 billion in 2021. This was largely driven by higher exports of soybeans, soybean meal, soybean oil, and other vegetable oils. The main markets for U.S. oilseeds and products were China, Mexico, the European Union (EU), Japan, and Indonesia.

The animals, meats, and products category grew by 22 percent from 2020 to $39 billion in 2021. This was mostly due to higher exports of beef, pork, poultry, dairy products, eggs, hides and skins, and pet food. The main markets for U.S. animals, meats, and products were China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and South Korea.

The horticultural products category grew by 9 percent from 2020 to $38 billion in 2021. This was mainly due to higher exports of tree nuts (especially almonds), fruits (especially apples), vegetables (especially potatoes), wine (especially sparkling wine), essential oils (especially mint oil), nursery stock (especially ornamental plants), cut flowers (especially roses), and hops (especially aroma hops). The main markets for U.S. horticultural products were Canada, EU, China, Mexico, and Japan.

China remained the top export destination for U.S. agricultural products in 2021, with a record $33 billion in purchases, up 25 percent from 2020. This was a significant recovery from the trade disputes between the United States and China that led to a steep reduction in oilseed exports (among other commodities) in 2018. The Phase One trade agreement between the two countries helped to restore market access and increase purchases of U.S. agricultural goods by China.

Mexico inched ahead of Canada to capture the number two position with a record $25.5 billion in purchases,
up 39 percent from last year. This was partly due to the implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that modernized the trade rules and enhanced cooperation among the three countries.

Canada was close behind with a record $25 billion in purchases, up 15 percent from last year. Canada is a major market for U.S. horticultural products, processed foods, and animal products.

Japan ($14 billion) and the EU ($13 billion) were also among the top five agricultural trading partners with the United States. While their shares of U.S. exports have decreased since 2001, they remain important markets for U.S. grains, oilseeds, meats, and dairy products.

The top five U.S. agricultural trading partners accounted for 61 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2021.

Looking ahead, U.S. food exporters face both challenges and opportunities in the global market. Some of the challenges include the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its variants, the rising costs and delays in transportation and logistics, the increasing competition from other suppliers, the changing consumer preferences and environmental standards, and the potential trade disputes and disruptions.

Some of the opportunities include the growing population and income in developing countries, the diversification and innovation in food products and services, the advancement of digital technologies and e-commerce platforms, the development of new trade agreements and partnerships, and the promotion of U.S. food quality, safety, and sustainability.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committed to supporting U.S. food exporters by providing market information and analysis, facilitating trade missions and shows, resolving trade issues and disputes, expanding market access and reducing barriers, partnering with industry on marketing and promotion efforts, and administering export credit and food aid programs.

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U.S. Food Export Trends in 2021

The U.S. agricultural industry achieved a remarkable feat in 2021, posting its highest annual export levels ever recorded. According to the Department of Commerce, exports of U.S. farm and food products to the world totaled $177 billion, topping the 2020 total by 18% and eclipsing the previous record, set in 2014, by 14.6%. This is a major boost for the economy as a whole, and particularly for rural communities, as agricultural exports stimulate local economic activity, support producers’ bottom lines, and sustain more than 1.3 million jobs on the farm and in related industries such as food processing and transportation.


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Factors Driving the Growth of U.S. Food Exports

Several factors contributed to the impressive growth of U.S. food exports in 2021, including:

  • A strong global demand for U.S. products, especially from China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Colombia, which all set new records for their purchases of U.S. farm and food products. China remained the top export destination, with a record $33 billion in purchases, up 25% from 2020. Mexico inched ahead of Canada to capture the number two position with a record $25.5 billion, up 39% from last year.
  • A return to certainty and stability from the United States under the Biden-Harris Administration, which strengthened relationships with trading partners, held them accountable for their commitments, addressed transportation and infrastructure challenges, called out ocean carriers that were putting profits above their responsibility to serve both importers and exporters, and expanded opportunities for agricultural exports by knocking down trade barriers and partnering with industry on marketing and promotion efforts worldwide.
  • A diverse and resilient portfolio of U.S. products, which saw gains across all major commodity groups in 2021. The top four categories – grains and feeds; oilseeds and products; animals (e.g., livestock and poultry), meats, and products; and horticultural products – equally accounted for about 90% of total export value between 2017 and 2021. The grains and feeds category recorded the largest year-to-year growth, increasing 40% from 2020 to $43 billion in 2021. The animals, meats, and products category followed this growth, growing 22% from 2020 to $39 billion in 2021.

Outlook for U.S. Food Exports in 2022

The outlook for U.S. food exports in 2022 is optimistic, as global demand for U.S. products is expected to remain strong and the Biden-Harris Administration continues to pursue a trade agenda that works for American farmers and producers. According to the USDA’s latest forecast, U.S. agricultural exports are projected to reach $187 billion in fiscal year 2022, which would be another record high. The forecast reflects continued growth in exports to China, Mexico, Canada, Japan and other markets, as well as increased exports of grains and feeds, oilseeds and products, dairy products, poultry products and horticultural products. Processed food products are also expected to perform well in 2022, as they have shown dynamic growth in recent years, led by food preparations (63%) and processed and prepared dairy products (232%) between 2009 and 2013.

References:

https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/2020pr/ft900_2012.pdf

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-trade-deficit-likely-widened-in-april-amid-coronavirus-disruptions-11591268401

https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2022/02/08/american-agricultural-exports-shattered-records-2021
https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/agricultural-trade/
https://www.world-grain.com/articles/16481-exports-of-us-farm-food-products-set-new-record-in-2021
https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/us-processed-food-exports-growth-outlook

https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/agricultural-trade/

https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2022/02/08/american-agricultural-exports-shattered-records-2021

https://www.world-grain.com/articles/16481-exports-of-us-farm-food-products-set-new-record-in-2021

https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/us-processed-food-exports-growth-outlook



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