Commodities & markets, International issues, Management, Policy, Studies

Dynamic hay export growth led by China

Dan Putnam, William A. Matthews, and Daniel A. Sumner[1]


Proceedings, 2016 California Alfalfa and Forage Symposium, Reno, NV, Dec. 2016.

Western hay exports have increased rapdily in recent years, and are on pace to exceed 4.7 Metric Tons (MT) in 2016, a record high export volume from western ports.  Western exports of hay are likely to exceed $1.5 billion in 2016.  Hay export share is significantly less than other field-crop commodities, with less than 5% of US alfalfa production and less than 3% of grass hay exported. But in recent years the equivalent of about 15% of alfalfa and more than 44% of grass hays produced in the seven western states have been exported, according to US Dept. of Commerce and USDA figures.  These are the major exporting states.  The increase in exports was driven partly by lower US prices and partly by increased demand by importers in spite of a strong US dollar.  Japan remains the largest market for US hay, most of which is grass hay, including timothy from the Pacific Northwest and Bermuda, kleingrass and sudangrass from the Southwest.  However, China has emerged as the largest export market for alfalfa, having grown from near zero eight years ago to approximately 1.5 million MT in 2016.  The Middle East, which is undergoing major agricultural changes due to water challenges has also grown as an export destination.  Export of hay is likely to be a permanent component of the western hay industry, as the livestock industry in Asia expands and scarce land and water limit production in Asia and the Middle East.

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