U.S. farmers, ranchers and producers are expected to sell record amounts of agricultural commodities to overseas buyers next year, according to new estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Total export sales, including grain and other bulk commodities, are expected to hit $143.5 billion in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Farm imports also are expected to hit a record $117 billion, leaving a trade surplus of $26.5 billion, down $3.5 billion from the revised 2012 forecast of a $30 billion trade surplus.
The USDA report focuses on trade values and estimates the volume of export goods for only some commodities.
Because of the pervasive drought across much of the U.S., many commodities have a small crop size and export volume, but higher price per unit than in previous years.
By and large, however, reefer export commodities aren’t impacted by drought conditions. In fact, only aggressive precipitation kept the 2012 Washington apple crop from record levels. Hail in July tempered initial expectations for a record-setting 120 million bushels of fresh apples in Washington state. Still, this year’s crop of apples is expected to be the state’s second-largest at nearly 109 million bushels, said Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission.
About one-third of the state’s apple crop traditionally enters the export market.
The Pacific Northwest pear crop is flirting with a record harvest that could push exports above current marketing year totals of 168,000 metric tons. Officials at the Pear Bureau Northwest expect Mexico again to be the dominant market in the marketing year, which begins Oct. 1.
Pear exports to Mexico declined when Mexico imposed import tariffs in retaliation for the United States’ refusal to allow Mexican trucks to enter the U.S. The removal of the 20 percent tariff has helped tremendously, marketing officials said.
The fiscal 2013 export forecast for horticultural products is a record $32 billion, up $3.5 billion from the 2012 estimate. Fresh fruit and vegetable exports are forecast at a record $7.6 billion, up $700 million. Exports to Canada, Europe and Japan are expected to continue to expand. Processed fruit and vegetable exports are forecast at $7.4 billion, up $700 million.
Whole and processed tree nuts are forecast at $7 billion, up $800 million, primarily because of China’s growing demand for almonds, pistachios and walnuts. The fiscal 2012 export estimate for horticultural products is unchanged at $28.5 billion.
The overall horticultural import projection for 2012 declined $300 million from the last estimate, because of smaller volumes or lower prices for imported fruit juices, fresh vegetables, wine and essential oils.
Import quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as processed fruits and vegetables, except fruit juices, remained relatively strong. These import unit values and volumes are expected to carry over to 2013 and lift total horticultural imports by more than $3 billion to $45.3 billion.
Import demand for fresh fruits has increased strongly since 2000 and is forecast to reach $8 billion in 2013, the largest among horticultural product groups.
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