USDA on Wednesday increased its forecast for agricultural imports for fiscal 2024, while projected ag exports remain unchanged at $170.5 billion, boosting the estimated U.S. ag trade deficit to $32 billion.

U.S. ag imports are estimated at $202.5 billion, a $1.5 billion increase from the February forecast, led by increases in fruit and vegetables, according to USDA’s quarterly trade outlook. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30. 

The latest forecast also has China dropping to third place behind Mexico and Canada among the top U.S. export markets. The forecast for exports to China was reduced $1 billion to $27.7 billion, “largely due to continued strong competition on soybeans and corn.”

Exports to Mexico are projected up $300 million to a record $28.7 billion, while exports to Canada are projected $400 million higher at $28.4 billion, also a record.

The growing U.S. ag trade deficit has been driven both by falling prices for U.S. exports as well as growing consumer demand for imported commodities, including fresh fruits and vegetables. 

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The United States also ran small deficits during the last two years of the Donald Trump administration, at $1.3 billion in fiscal 2019 and 2020 before small surpluses in FY21 and FY22 turned into a deficit of $16.7 billion in FY23.

When it comes to U.S. exports, higher forecasts for U.S. livestock and dairy products, as well as ethanol, helped offset reductions in grains and feeds. 

The FY24 forecast for livestock, poultry and dairy exports was raised $800 million to $38.5 billion, driven in part by increased cheese exports to Southeast Asia, while the projection for ethanol exports was raised $400 million to $4 billion.

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