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Export Sales Deep Dive

U.S. corn export sales for 2023/24 through May 2 totaled 1.875 billion bushels, 34% above a year earlier, but behind the seasonal pace needed to reach USDA’s revised annual export forecast of 2.150 billion. Sales need to average 15.9 million bushels per week over the final 17-plus weeks of 2023/24 just to reach USDA’s forecast, but over the previous five years, they averaged just 4.6 million per week. China’s absence from the U.S. market remains a big negative; its U.S. corn purchases are down 72.8% from last year. At this point, odds China will make large purchases for 2023/24 look low and prospects for 2024/25 sales to China are uncertain with Beijing projecting much lower total imports (see page 4). In contrast, sales to top U.S. corn customer Mexico are up nearly 40%, with sales to Japan up 52%; sales to Colombia up 149%; and sales to the rest of the world up nearly 42%. U.S. corn exporters have been more dependent on Mexico than ever before, though, with sales to Mexico making up 41% of total U.S. sales versus a five-year average of 31%.

U.S. soybean export sales for 2023/24 to date are 16.5% below last year with USDA forecasting a 14.7% drop in annual exports to 1.700 billion bushels. While export shipments are close to the needed pace, unshipped sales as of May 2 were just 13 million above a year earlier. U.S. export sales need to run about 8 million bushels per week just to reach USDA’s export forecast, but over the previous five years, they averaged only 2.9 million per week during the last 17-plus weeks of the marketing year. Lower sales to China are the main reason for the drop in total sales. U.S. export sales to China for 2023/24 totaled 876 million bushels as of May 2, down 24.5% from last year. Despite that, China still accounted for more than 56% of all U.S. soybean sales. Sales to the next largest export customers, Mexico, the European Union, and Japan were down only 1.5% from last year, although sales to the rest of the world were down about 51%.

With the 2023/24 U.S. wheat marketing year nearly over, USDA revised its export forecast upward to 720 million bushels, which is little comfort as exports will still be the lowest since 1970/71. The good news is that advance wheat export sales for next marketing year are off to a much better start than a year ago — as of May 2, they totaled 108.7 million bushels, nearly up 82% year-over-year. Advance sales to six of the top nine U.S. wheat customers were up, with South Korea having already booked 14 million bushels, more than triple a year earlier. Advance sales to the rest of the world were more than double a year earlier. Lower wheat prices seem to be doing their job — stimulating demand. Export competition still figures to be stiff in 2024/25, but with Russia’s production now in doubt and Ukraine’s expected to be down, the U.S. wheat export picture looks improved.

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