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Ag trade with China grew fast

By Staff | Dec 18, 2015

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited China in November. His principal goal was to work with officials there to eliminate those obstacles that still exist inhibiting agricultural sales in China by U.S. producers.

Shortly before Vilsack’s trip, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a fact sheet detailing the extent of American agricultural trade with China and assessing its future. According to the USDA, “agricultural exports to China have risen sharply, propelling China into its position as the fastest-growing and highest-value export destination for U.S. farm and food products.”

Canada was long the top foreign market for U.S. agricultural products. China surpassed our northern labor in that regard in 2011 and has remained in first place since then. During federal fiscal year 2105, the sale of U.S. agricultural and related products in China was an impressive $25.9 billion. The USDA puts that figure at 16 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports.

The potential for additional growth in this important trade sector is enormous. The USDA predicts that the need for agricultural imports in China will increase in the years ahead due to three major economic trends:

  • China’s urban population is growing.
  • The middle class in China is on the increase and will continue to expand.
  • Increased disposable income is allowing many Chinese to diversify their diets.

That leads the USDA to conclude that China will want to import more “coarse grains, soybeans, cotton, beef and pork by 2024.”

If that projection materializes, the potential benefit for the Hawkeye State is obvious.

China is already a major foreign market for the soybeans grown here. The value of American soybean sales to China in fiscal year 2015 was $12.7 billion. China already imports more Iowa soybeans than all other countries combined. As that huge nation increases its demand for imported beef and pork, Iowa is well-positioned to provide the high-quality products those Chinese consumers will want.

Farm News applauds Vilsack’s efforts to ensure that China and the United States continue to strengthen their agricultural ties. Nearly one out of every five people who inhabit this planet lives in China. It is already an important market for Iowa products and will remain so far into the future.

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