U.S. Agricultural Imports are Expected to Surpass Exports Post Covid and Beyond

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the United States has experienced an agricultural trade surplus in 20 of the last 22 years, with 2019 and 2022 being the only years where imports surpassed exports.  U.S. agricultural imports have increased from $43.1 to $199.3 billion from 2001 to 2022, respectively. This increase of U.S. agricultural imports was accentuated during the Covid-19 pandemic years as total imports increased by 40 percent in value and 13.1 percent in volume between 2019 and 2022 (Tables 1 and 2).  The rather large difference between value and volume increases shows that there was a price increase in most of the commodities mainly due to supply chain issues and inflation during COVID-19. The largest increase in value of the top five US agricultural imports from 2019 to 2022 are oilseeds and products, grain and feeds, and livestock and meats with 105.5, 54.5, and 44.6 percent increases, respectively.  Moreover, in terms of volume, livestock and meats, other and horticultural products have the largest increase with 35.5, 21.9 and 14.1 percent respectively.

Figure 1.  Value of U.S. Agricultural Imports, Billion Dollars

Table 1. Value of U.S. Agricultural Imports, Thousand Dollars

Table 2. Volume of U.S. Agricultural Imports, Metric Tons

The latest USDA Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade report (August 2023) forecasted imports for 2023 at $196.5 billion, down $1.5 billion from the May forecast mainly due to easing import prices throughout FY 2023.  The year-over-year imports from January to July show an overall decrease of 1.4 percent in value, but a 4.4 percent increase in volume confirming that prices of importing commodities are easing (Tables 1 and 2).  The value of the top five U.S. agricultural imports year-over-year has gone down except for grains and feeds.  On the other hand, the volume of all U.S. agricultural imports has gone up except for sugar and tropical products. Moreover, forecasted imports for 2024 are expected to be $199.5 billion, $3 billion above 2023, and virtually the same as 2022 imports.

ReferencesU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  “Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: August 2023.”  AES-125, August 31, 2023. https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/outlooks/107311/aes-125.pdf?v=1152.5

Ribera, Luis. “U.S. Agricultural Imports are Expected to Surpass Exports Post Covid and Beyond.Southern Ag Today 3(40.4). October 5, 2023. Permalink