Overview of U.S. Agricultural Imports and Exports in 2023

tendata blogMarket Insights

ten data blog18-02-2024

The United States is a major global exporter, ranking second only to China. In 2023, Canada and Mexico became the largest single-country export partners for the United States. In addition to these bilateral trade relationships, the United States exported goods worth over $368 billion to the European Union. U.S. exports account for approximately 10% of its GDP.


In 2023, U.S. exports amounted to $3,053.5 billion, an increase of $35 billion from 2022. U.S. imports were $3,826.9 billion, a decrease of $142.7 billion from 2022. Goods exports decreased by $39.2 billion to $2,050.7 billion in 2023.


U.S. exports,U.S. agricultural imports,U.S. agricultural exports


The primary agricultural exports from the United States include grains and feeds, soybeans, livestock products, tree nuts, fruits, vegetables, and other horticultural products. The major import products for the United States are horticultural and tropical products. Canada, Mexico, the European Union, and East Asia are major trading partners for the United States.


In the 2023 fiscal year, U.S. agricultural imports exceeded exports.

While U.S. agricultural exports typically surpass imports, the past decade has seen import growth outpacing exports, leading to trade deficits in some years. From the fiscal year 2013 to 2023, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for U.S. agricultural exports was 2.1%, while imports grew by 5.8% during the same period. The strong growth in U.S. import demand is primarily driven by a stronger dollar and consumer preferences for year-round agricultural choices. This has resulted in a negative agricultural trade balance in three of the past ten fiscal years.


U.S. agricultural export values peaked in the 2022 fiscal year and then declined in 2023.

U.S. agricultural export values (excluding inflation factors) reached their peak in the 2022 fiscal year and declined in 2023. The export total for 2023 was $178.7 billion, a decrease of $17 billion from 2022.


Four categories typically account for around 90% of total agricultural exports. These categories include grains and feeds, oilseeds and products, animals (livestock and poultry), meat and meat products, and horticultural products. Although the reasons for the decline in export value in 2023 are diverse, the main contributors are the decrease in export values of grains and animals, especially corn, wheat, sorghum, and beef. The global decline in commodity prices from the 2022 peak is a significant driving factor for the overall export value decrease.


Horticultural products drive the overall growth in U.S. agricultural import volumes.

From the fiscal year 2013 to 2023, the compound annual growth rate for U.S. agricultural imports was 5.8%. In most years, over half of U.S. agricultural imports consist of horticultural products, including fruits, vegetables, distilled spirits, broad categories like wine, essential oils, nuts, and seedlings.


Consumer desires for year-round availability, changing consumer preferences, and increasing competition between foreign and domestic production have fueled the growth in demand for horticultural products. Additionally, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and later the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) provided tariff-free and quota-free import access, supporting consumer demand. However, from 2022 to 2023, there was a slight decrease in the import value of horticultural products, primarily due to global price declines and reduced imports of alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, the increase in imports of vegetable oils and cereal products (oilseeds and grains categories) was sufficient to offset this decrease, supporting an overall 1% growth in 2023.


In the 2023 fiscal year, the top five agricultural trade partners accounted for 64% of U.S. agricultural exports.

The top five markets for U.S. agricultural exports in the 2023 fiscal year accounted for 64% of the total value. Among them, exports to China had the largest share, totaling $33.7 billion, followed by Mexico at $28.2 billion, and Canada at $27.9 billion. The European Union trailed with $12.3 billion, slightly ahead of Japan at $12.2 billion. Since 2001, the nominal value of agricultural exports to these five trading partners has grown annually, with a compound annual growth rate of 2.7% from 2002 to 2023. From 2022 to 2023, U.S. agricultural exports to these markets decreased, except for Mexico.


Canada and the European Union are the two largest suppliers of agricultural imports to the United States, followed by Mexico.

Canada and Mexico are the first and third-largest suppliers of U.S. agricultural products, averaging $30.9 billion and $25.5 billion, respectively, from 2017-2021. Mexico supplies 31% of horticultural products, including fruits, vegetables, and alcoholic beverages. Canada is also a source of horticultural products, as well as grains and meats. The European Union is the second-largest source of imports, with U.S. agricultural imports reaching $28 billion from 2017-2021, with horticultural products such as wine, distilled spirits, and essential oils accounting for over 60% of its value. From 2017-2021, South America (led by Brazil, Chile, and Colombia) averaged $15.6 billion in agricultural imports from the United States, primarily including horticulture, sugar, and tropical products with comparative or seasonal advantages.


East Asia and North America remain the primary regions for U.S. agricultural exports.

From 2017 to 2021, East Asia and North America collectively accounted for 60% of U.S. agricultural exports. East Asia, led by China, Japan, and South Korea, is the largest market, contributing 31% of the share. The top three commodities exported to East Asia include oilseeds, grains, and meat. Over the five-year period from 2017-2021, the export share to Canada and Mexico increased, accounting for 28% of world exports. Southeast Asia (led by the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia) is the third-largest regional destination, closely followed by the European Union.


Expanding exports broadens the U.S. agricultural market.

The proportion of agricultural and food products sold abroad reflects the degree of dependence on foreign markets. Products with the highest export share (representing 40% or more of their total market value) include fruits and tree nuts, oilseeds, and cereals such as rice and wheat. The overall export share of U.S. agricultural production has remained relatively stable at around 20% since 2008.


Consumer preferences for high-value products are reflected in imports.

For high-value agricultural product categories, the United States tends to import a higher percentage of its consumption. Higher import shares are attributed to various factors, including relative competitiveness in production, seasonal supply, and consumer preferences. Sweeteners, processed sugar, and confectionery are product categories where the United States relies on imports. Fruits, nuts, and vegetables are also frequently imported. The dependency on imports for unprocessed commodities such as feed grains, livestock, and oilseeds tends to be lower. From 2011 to 2021, the overall import share of all food and beverage consumption was 15%, steadily increasing during this period


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