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  • How World Economics Impact Domestic Agriculture: The European Union

    by Joe Camp

     With countries in Asia and South American often dominating the talk in agriculture circles, countries that make up the European Union are sometimes overlooked. But, the world’s economists and financial market participants certainly haven’t forgot about the region. EU countries have made plenty of news in recent years as credit problems have caused concerns over financial stability.
       The EU and US are closely linked by agricultural ties. The EU provides major export competition in wheat markets and is a major importer of corn and soybeans. For that reason, the health of those EU economies will have important bearing on the U.S. grain trade in the years ahead.
       The European Union is made up of 28 members that include core countries like the U.K., France, and Germany, as well as peripheral countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal. Legal jurisdiction is supported by treaties among the countries and trade relations are controlled by various economic associations and agreements.
       The economies are also under purview of the European Central Bank (ECB), which in part governs money stock and interest rates. The ECB has played an important role in the effort to accommodate financial institutions after the last global economic crisis. As it has for the U.S., easy money in Europe has inflated the amount of funds that circulate throughout the economies and there is evidence that money has trickled into commodity markets.
       While the EU boasts strong agriculture production and export capacity, the region continues to be a major importer of finished food products. Countries in the EU also rely on imported machinery. Total U.S. exports of agricultural products to the EU were $11.9 billion last year and will continue to grow if the countries achieve economic stability.
       The EU is an important customer for U.S. ag producers, but the region is also a formidable competitor. Economic recovery has been led by export initiatives and agriculture is playing a major role in the trade market. Whether customer or competitor, U.S. agriculture will rely on a strong EU economy because of the interrelations that exist among them in the global ag sector.
       AgriVisor’s next blog edition will examine the U.S. agriculture as it is affected by the economic health of its two neighbors, Canada and Mexico. The North American Free Trade Agreement allows the three countries to benefit from a strong partnership where commodity flows are a linchpin.

  • How World Economies Impact Domestic Agriculture: The Asia/Pacific Region

    by Joe Camp

       China, a major consumer of American agricultural goods, dominates market headlines on what is nearly an everyday basis. That’s no surprise, as there are a lot of people to feed in China. What’s more, the Chinese are enjoying rapid gains in living standards. Higher average incomes are the country is expected to become the world’s largest economy by 2020.
       China may garner the most attention in industry news, but there are several economies in the Asian/Pacific region that have major stakes in the global ag market. Japan, for example, is a consistent importer of U.S. corn surpluses. South Korea is also a notable consumer of imported coarse grains. Australia is a major wheat exporter and India is becoming a formidable source export of export competition, too.
       The area is large and the economies that make up the Asian/Pacific region are diverse. Each economy is characterized by a unique set of fundamentals that will drive them in the years ahead. Growth and development in the region will rely on a continued presence in the international agriculture economy.
       The Chinese economy is still firmly in the hands of Beijing policymakers, but initiatives to liberalize markets will continue to loosen the state’s grip. Manufacturing production remains a key driver of growth in the Chinese economy. Gains in industrial efficiency are providing much needed support to the agriculture industry, which would benefit from increased commercialization.
       China is a large importer and accounts for about 7 percent of the world’s total import demand for coarse grains. The other economies in Southeast Asia are a source of consistent demand as well. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are expected to import a combined 9.22 million metric tons of coarse grains in the 2014/15 marketing year. Improving standards of living in those countries will increase the need for feed grains going forward and it looks as if the United States will be a major beneficiary of that demand.
       Australia is one of the Pacific region’s major players in agriculture. The country is on track to export 6 million metric tons of coarse grains and 18.5 million metrics tons of wheat in 2014/15. The economy enjoys an abundant endowment of natural resources and its business environment is tailored to meet the needs of a strong agriculture sector. Australian grain companies benefit from a stable financial system. Well-developed credit markets support growing export capacity. The country will continue to compete with U.S. in the international wheat trade.
       The economies that make up the Asian/Pacific region have experienced a rapid recovery from the latest financial crisis. As a whole, it will be necessary for the region to continue making efforts to liberalize financial systems and open channels for the ag trade markets. Ultimately, high growth potentials will sustain strong demand for U.S. grains in the years to come.