Trade tensions, African Swine Fever, and weak commodity prices are among the reasons USDA has trimmed its export sales forecasts for fiscal 2019 by $4.5 billion.

The May Outlook released Thursday by the Economic Research Service reduced the export forecast to $137 billion, or about 3.2 percent, from the February Outlook's prediction of $141.5 billion, due to a drop in livestock and commodity exports.

Corn exports are predicted to drop by $1.4 billion to $10.4 billion, as U.S. corn continues to be less competitive than South American corn.

The sluggish pace of shipments in recent months, and projections for large new-crop supplies in major exporting countries, lowered wheat export forecasts by $1.2 billion to $6.3 billion.

Soybean forecasts are down $1.5 billion, to $17 billion. Weaker soybean demand in China has caused many producers to hang on to their crop, weakening prices. However, strong soybean meal demand and lower prices have helped raise crush margins while maintaining export volumes.

ERS lowered its prediction for livestock, dairy, and poultry exports by $500 million to $29.9 billion on declines for virtually all products except dairy, which is forecast higher.

Softer prices and lower volumes are expected to reduce beef exports by $300 million. However, weather continues to impact Australian beef producers, providing an opportunity for the U.S. to expand into Asian markets. 

The pork export forecast dropped $100 million on lower volumes. Stronger global demand for pork in the second half of the fiscal year should offset the current slow start as the spread of ASF boosts prices.

Cotton exports are projected to fall $200 million to $5.7 billion. Rice exports remain unchanged at $1.7 billion.

The ag trade surplus is forecast at $8.8 billion, a decrease of $5.5 billion from three months ago.

Horticulture products are leading a $1 billion increase in the forecast for all ag imports, to a total of $129 billion. Horticulture exports remain unchanged at $35.3 billion.

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