For the first time since the 2011/12 crop year, U.S. soybean exports are projected to decline from prior-year levels. The Agriculture Department’s March 2018 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates projects soybean exports in 2017/18 at 2.065 billion bushels, down 109 million bushels, or 5 percent, from prior marketing-year levels. One bushel of soybeans yields 47.5 pounds of soybean meal and 10.7 pounds of soybean oil. After converting U.S. soybean meal and soybean oil exports to soybean equivalents, total U.S. soybean-equivalent exports are projected at 2.764 billion bushels, down 136 million bushels from the prior marketing year’s record-high export volume of 2.9 billion bushels.
Lower soybean exports come despite a smaller-than-anticipated Argentinian crop, but also coincide with North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations and concern over potential retaliations based on U.S.-imposed steel, aluminum, washing machine and solar panel import tariffs. China and Mexico are the top U.S. markets for soybean exports. Through January of the 2017/18 marketing year, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service data reveals exports of soybeans to China at 867 million bushels, down 19 percent, while exports to Mexico were 63 million bushels, up 8 percent from prior-year levels. A recent Market Intel reviewed the concerns over steel and aluminum tariffs: Potential Aluminum and Steel Tariffs Bring Angst to Farm Country.