U.S. agricultural exports forecasted to be a record $61.5 billion this year

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WASHINGTON – The USDA’s revised forecast of agricultural exports for fiscal year 2004 shows sales of $61.5 billion, an increase of $5.3 billion over the previous year.

This level of sales, if realized, would be the highest ever, eclipsing the old record of $59.8 billion set in fiscal year 1996.

“With some of our recent market re-openings and continued strong commodity prices, we are well on the way to setting a new export sales record,” said Ann Veneman, agriculture secretary.

“Exports to China continue to be a real bright spot for U.S. agriculture,” Veneman said.

“U.S. agricultural exports to China will have more than tripled since their accession to the World Trade Organization, rising from $1.8 billion in 2001, to $3.5 billion in 2003, and they are forecast to reach a record $5.9 billion in fiscal year 2004.

“China was our fifth largest agricultural customer last year, and our number-one market for soybeans, cotton and hides/skins.”

Wheat, corn. Wheat and corn exports are likely to account for 50 percent of the annual increase in agricultural exports.

U.S. wheat is in high demand and is benefiting from reduced competition due to poor harvests in the European Union, Russia and Ukraine.

Corn is experiencing strong sales growth to Egypt, Colombia, Israel and Korea.

Cotton. Other commodities benefiting from large sales increases this year include cotton and horticultural products.

Cotton sales are forecast to rise $1.5 billion over last year to $4.2 billion.

Cotton farmers are benefiting from strong prices and high global demand.

Horticultural. Horticultural sales are forecast to set a record of $13.5 billion, with tree nuts and a broad array of processed foods accounting for two-thirds of the overall gain.

Horticultural exports to Canada and Mexico remain strong, sales to Europe of selected products are brisk, and exports to several Asian countries are rising sharply.

Livestock. The 2004 forecast of livestock and livestock products of $7 billion is $1 billion higher than the February level.

This increase is due to high beef, pork and poultry prices and also the department’s efforts to reopen some key beef and poultry markets that were closed following findings of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and avian influenza.

Livestock exports in fiscal year 2003 totaled $9 billion.

Imports, forecast at $51.5 billion for 2004, are $5.8 billion higher than last year resulting in an agricultural trade surplus of $10 billion.

On the rise. As they have for the past three decades, horticultural imports continue to rise, accounting for about half of the overall import gain.

Off-season demand for fresh products and competitive prices are driving the long-term growth in imported fruits and vegetables.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service, the Foreign Agricultural Service and the World Agricultural Outlook Board release agricultural trade forecasts quarterly.

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