China's Woes Hit U.S. Agriculture

By Guebert, Alan | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), January 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

China's Woes Hit U.S. Agriculture


Guebert, Alan, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


The fireworks-filled, holiday celebration that is the Chinese New Year doesn't begin until Feb. 8. Three weeks into calendar year 2016, however, key elements in China's economy - its wildly speculative stock markets, less-than-transparent currency, sagging heavy industries - have been duds.

That weakness already is being felt in U.S. farm and ranch country. Rural America, after all, is China's biggest grocery store; 20 percent of all American ag exports, $29.9 billion in 2014, go to the Asian giant.

That means what happens in Shanghai securities markets greatly affects Chicago commodity markets, New York stock markets, and global currency markets. And, lately, what's been happening is all bad.

For example, in the first two weeks of 2016 trading, Chinese stock markets cracked badly, down about 10 percent. Other big stock markets, like London, Frankfurt and New York, felt the heat and dropped, respectively, 5.3, 8.3 and 6 percent lower.

Because of their bigger size, however, losses in these non- Chinese markets were far more significant. U.S. market watchers estimate the deep sell-off in American stocks has already cost investors $1 trillion, the biggest loss of any new year in New York.

The Chinese punch to American farm and ranch markets, while less than that, will sting more. Especially hard hit will be U.S. cotton, soybeans, and pork.

In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut overseas cotton sales by another 200,000 bales. Current year exports, now estimates the USDA, will be 10 million bales, 1.3 million less than a year ago. The biggest reason for the cut, says the USDA, is a slow- and-getting slower Chinese economy.

The drop forced the USDA to reduce its estimated 2015-16 average cotton price to 59 cents per pound. That's a nickel less than the air-sucking price of one year ago and more than a $1 per pound under cotton's fluffy 2011 price.

U.S. soybeans, too, are facing a stiff Chinese headwind. Reports late last fall warned that the country's heavy stockpiling of purchased soy in late 2015 would bring slowing imports in early 2016.

On Jan. 12, the USDA confirmed the reports. …

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