China’s imports of U.S. farm commodities have come roaring back, to the delight of American farmers – up to a point.
After a bruising trade war under the Trump administration, China is now buying more U.S. pork, corn, soybeans and other products than ever. China is America’s largest farm trade partner, buying a quarter of its agricultural exports. Soybean exports to China jumped 53% last year over 2019, after a deal in January 2020 interrupted the trade war.
China’s demand is driven by its efforts to rebuild its hog herds, which were severely depleted by African swine flu. This is driving demand for both hogs and pork, and grains used to feed hogs.
The result will be higher prices for some commodities, and possibly for food products made from them. Soybean prices are already up 64% from last year.
Farmers and others are happy about the Chinese market coming back but worry about excessive reliance on what is proving to be an unreliable trading partner.
“The bad news is that at any point in time, because of the complex nature of that relationship, things can happen that might impact and affect those purchases,” agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack told the Wall Street Journal.