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            august 23, 2019

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Trade war plunges US farm exports by 32pc to China


Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, saw 32 per cent declines in agricultural exports to China in 2018 mostly because of the Sino-American trade war, reported the American Journal of Transportation.
These numbers are being driven by impacts on specific commodities, such as: soybean exports - 69 per cent lower in 2018 than in 2017; seafood exports - down 36 per cent; dairy exports - down 41 per cent; apple exports - down 26 per cent; and exports of fresh cherries - down 33.4 per cent.
NWSA, aka SeaTac, handled agricultural exports of just under US$5 billion in 2017. In 2018, it was just shy of $3.5 billion. Agricultural exports dropped from 224,000 TEU in 2017 to 169,000 TEU in 2018.
Agricultural exports at NWSA had been growing for five years "until they took a wrong turn" last year, said Tong Zhu, NWSA's chief commercial officer. Allowing that a strong dollar contributed to suppressed export levels, she said: "I can't be convinced that was driven mainly by currency rates."
At the Port of Oakland, another major agricultural exporting gateway, outbound cargo was also down in 2018, although it saw surprising upticks in March and April of this year.
It suggests Chinese importers were loading up on commodities in advance of a tariff hike much as US importers did late last year.
"The broad assumption is that retaliatory tariffs will have a negative impact on the agricultural sector," said Oakland port spokesman Mike Zampa. "We have been worried about this since the dispute arose and we really hope this thing gets resolved."
"We have been shipping a lot of empties back to Asia," said Mr Zampa, noting that this has also been due to the surge of imports Oakland has seen over the last six months.
The US agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable to disruptions in international trading patterns, because, as Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, said: "Nothing we produce in agriculture or in forest products can't be sourced somewhere else in the world. And if we don't deliver affordably and dependably," he said, "our foreign customer will go elsewhere to buy".

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