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US Farm Exports Hit Three-Year Low in 2023 as China Slows Buying
South Dakota Ag Connection - 02/12/2024

U.S. exports of agricultural and related products reached a value of $191 billion in 2023, down 10% from 2022’s record as both commodity prices and shipment volumes declined.

That marks a three-year low though is similar to the 2021 levels, and it reflects competition from key suppliers, particularly when it comes to satisfying Chinese demand.

Data published by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday shows exports of bulk commodities, which include top-grossing items like soybeans, corn, wheat and cotton, hit a 10-year low by volume in 2023. That volume was down 17% from 2022, the largest year-on-year tumble since 1985.

Last year’s U.S. bulk commodity exports were still a 10-year low even when subtracting China’s portion, though the annual decline shrinks to 10%, the same as in 2022, China excluded. These declines were driven by high prices and a supply increase in rival exporting countries.

Top exporter Brazil is a prime example as its combined corn and soy shipments in 2023 totaled nearly 158 million metric tons, some 29% higher than 2022’s record. U.S. corn-plus-soy exports last year totaled 94 million tons, down 18% on the year to a four-year low.

This uncomfortable predicament for U.S. exporters was emphasized in December as China was the destination for 38% of the cargoes, down from the month’s three-year average of 59%. Outside of the 2018 trade war, that was China’s lowest share of December U.S. soybean shipments since 2002.

Despite the decline in the farm sector, all U.S. exports, including goods and services, rose 1% in 2023 to a new record of $3.05 trillion. However, that annual growth rate is slim compared with 18% and 19% observed in 2022 and 2021, respectively.

Agriculture and related products accounted for 6.2% of all U.S. exports last year, a four-year low and down from shares above 7% in the previous three years.


By value, last year’s U.S. bulk commodity exports declined 22% from 2022’s high. The average export cost of U.S. soybeans in 2023 fell 5% on the year and the corn cost eased 10%, though both were still higher than in 2021.

U.S. wheat export prices were down 16% last year and cotton prices fell 19%, and those combined with large annual volume declines. U.S. cotton shipments fell 18% on the year to a seven-year low, and wheat shipments were the lightest since 1971, down 13% on the year.

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