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China headed for record purchases of U.S. ag exports

Exporters sold $15.2 billion worth of American farm products to China in the first six months of 2021, raising the possibility of record sales this year, wrote economist David Widmar on Monday on the Agricultural Economic Insights blog. Sales are on pace to hit $33.7 billion, with some of the most active months for sales — during and after the fall harvest — still to come.

“Right now, analysts are saying it’s like the trade war never happened,” said Widmar. “Trade has been an area of stability amid rising tensions between the United States and China on myriad other issues. But China’s purchasing targets expire at the end of the year, and the Biden administration hasn’t indicated what its next steps on China trade will be.”

The 2020 “phase one” trade agreement that de-escalated the Sino-U.S. trade war called for China to import $43.6 billion worth of U.S. food, agriculture, and seafood products this year as part of $200 billion in purchases overall from America. China is closer to meeting the target for agriculture than for other trade categories, said Widmar. Sales for January through June of this year were $8 billion, or 52%, higher than they were for the first half of 2020.

Last week, exporters reported the sale of 592,000 tonnes, or 21.7 million bushels, of U.S. soybeans for delivery to China in the trade year that begins on Sept. 1.

On Thursday, the USDA is scheduled to update its forecast of record ag exports of $35 billion to China this fiscal year. The current mark is $25.7 billion during fiscal 2014. Fiscal years start each Oct. 1. On a calendar-year basis, the record is $26.4 billion in 2020, according to USDA data.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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