The latest USDA forecast on agricultural trade predicts an increase in ag exports and a decline in imports.

The report, “Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade,” which was released June 4, projects fiscal 2001 ag exports to reach $53.5 billion, that’s an increase of $500 million above the forecast released in February. In addition, the import forecast has been reduced to $39 billion, down $1 billion from the February report. These combined changes should boost the expected ag export surplus to $14.5 billion – the largest in three years.

The biggest portion of the increase in ag exports comes from “high-value products” such as hides, skins, poultry meat and tree nuts. In addition, soybeans, a bulk commodity, has seen the largest gain in sales volume. Most of the increase in hides and soybeans is expected to go to China.

On the flip side, the forecast for corn, wheat, rice and cotton has been revised down from the February report. This change in part is due to: greater than anticipated competition from China, Brazil and Argentina on corn; abundant supplies of rice in nearly all exporting countries, and a large surplus of cotton stocks. Although soybean exports are up, record crops in Brazil, Argentina and the U.S. will continue to hold prices down.