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Ag exports near record levels in November 2020

Tryaging-iStock-Thinkstock Photo Illustration:  Container ship for ag exports
China’s corn and soybean purchases help push U.S. ag exports to levels not seen since 2013.

Despite the COVID-induced spring slowdown, 2020 agricultural exports are on pace for a record setting year. Friday afternoon the USDA updated its November trade export figures and reported $15.5 billion for November, the second highest on record.

Bart Kenner, USDA economist, shares the record amount comes below only to November 2013 which led into what turned out to be a record high export year. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we might be on track to set a record for exports this year if the trend continues,” Kenner said.  

Total agricultural exports to date were $129.9 billion, up from $124.7 billion for the same 11-month period in 2019, an increase of 4%.

Kenner shares that agricultural exports saw a dip in the spring and throughout the summer months of May, June and July. Sales then started to strengthen in September and by October had turned 4% above 2019 levels.

The import-export trade balance tipped in favor of imports into the United States during March through July and posted just a $245 million surplus in August. In November, the U.S. ag trade surplus was $4.1 billion, or 24%.

Related: U.S. red meat exports maintain robust pace

Corn and soybean exports for calendar year to date 2020 saw the biggest jumps from 2019 with corn up 15% to $8.3 billion and soybeans up 25% to $20.8 billion. Wheat exports were up 1% while cotton exports decreased 4%.

China’s soybean purchases of U.S. soybean saw the biggest jump from 4.3 million metric tons in November 2019 to 7.8 million mt in November 2020. For the 11-month period China’s soybean purchased increased to 27.7 million mt from 19.9 million mt in 2019.

Mexico remains the top destination for U.S. corn, but remained nearly the same in 2019 as 2020. However, China went from no purchases of U.S. corn in 2019 to 1.3 million metric tons in November 2020, and up from 312,000 mt in the 11-month period in 2019 to a total of 5.4 million mt in 2020.

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