U.S. exports of grain in all forms (GIAF) are on track to set a new record in 2017-18, with two months of sales left to report, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and analysis by the U.S. Grains Council.

USGC reported that during the first 10 months of the marketing year (September 2017 to June 2018), the United States exported 98.3 million metric tons (mmt, also 38.7 billion bushels) of grain in all forms, up 2 percent year-over-year from last year’s record-setting pace.

“GIAF exports is a fully-loaded accounting of the importance of exports to the livelihoods of U.S. coarse grain farmers and agribusinesses, particularly in a year of increased volatility and concern over retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products in multiple markets,” said Mike Dwyer, USGC chief economist. “U.S. GIAF exports could exceed 116 mmt (4.57 billion bushels) at the end of 2017-18, up from last marketing year’s 114 mmt (4.49 billion bushels) and the second year in a row setting a new record high.”

According to USGC, that achievement would come despite a tumultuous trade environment, serving as a reminder of the resiliency of U.S. exports and the quality and price competitiveness of U.S. coarse grains and co-products.

Trade with North American Free Trade Agreement countries and neighbors, Mexico and Canada, has increased GIAF purchases by 3.7 percent and 12.6 percent year-over-year, respectively. In Mexico, corn sales are up 8.9 percent at nearly 12.4 mmt (488 million bushels), and DDGS sales are up 4.2 percent at 1.76 mmt. In Canada, corn imports have nearly doubled to 1.25 mmt (49.2 million bushels), and ethanol purchases are up slightly at almost 270 million gallons year-to-date.

“GIAF exports to NAFTA partners could exceed 31 mmt (1.22 billion bushels) this marketing year — another record high that would account for 27 percent of worldwide GIAF sales,” Dwyer said. “Those sales signal the continued importance of the well-established supply chains and strong relationships the U.S. agricultural sector shares with both countries.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts will lead a trade team to Mexico later this month to promote Nebraska’s quality agricultural products and look for new opportunities for investment. Trade is an important component to Nebraska’s agricultural sector.

According to Ricketts, in 2016 Nebraska exported over $8 billion of goods worldwide out of a total gross domestic product of $117 billion.

“When it comes to trade, Nebraska’s agricultural products are some of our top exports,” Ricketts said in a recent column. An example he gave was that Nebraska exports about $2 billion worth of soybean products, $1.2 billion of beef and almost $1.2 billion of corn.

“When it comes to promoting these products, trade missions help market our products to customers,” Ricketts said. “A great example of this is our work in Japan. With two trade missions in the past three years, Nebraska has seen a 26 percent increase in beef exports to Japan and a 46 percent increase in pork exports in the last year.”

One of the trade missions Ricketts led was to the European Union. The GIAF exports to the European Union have risen nearly 84 percent year-over-year to 3.78 mmt (149 million bushels) thus far in 2017-18.

Nebraska is the nation’s second-leading ethanol producer. According to USGC, U.S. ethanol exports accounted for the lion’s share of the overall increase of GIAF exports in June, pushing exports up nearly 22 percent year-over-year to 1.36 billion gallons (12.2 mmt, or 480 million bushels in grain equivalent), continuing a surprisingly strong pace of exports. As a result, the council now believes ethanol exports could reach 1.6 billion gallons (14.4 mmt or 568 million bushels in grain equivalent), setting another new record.

Large customers, including Brazil and India, have continued to increase ethanol purchases. But other important trading partners like South Korea and Colombia have also realized large increases — up 41 percent and 194 percent year-over-year, respectively, USGC said.

“The overall growth in ethanol exports showcases the increased focus of ethanol within the council’s programming and the importance of exports of value-added products,” Dwyer said.

Overall. corn, barley and sorghum exports remain down slightly year-over-year. But while corn exports are 1.4 percent lower than last marketing year at this time, USDA’s forecast of increased corn exports for the 2017-18 marketing year signals the potential for a strong final two months of sales. Nebraska is the nation’s third largest corn producing state.

Key trading partners, including Mexico and Colombia, have also purchased larger volumes of U.S. corn compared to this time last marketing year.

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