China 2019 Export Highlights

Top 10 U.S. Agricultural Exports to China

(values in million USD)
Commodity 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 % Change
5-Year Average
Soybeans 10,489 14,203 12,224 3,119 7,989 156% 9,605
Pork & Products 427 713 662 571 1,300 128% 735
Cotton 859 554 978 924 708 -23% 805
Tree Nuts 208 182 243 328 606 85% 314
Hides & Skins 1,268 948 945 607 412 -32% 836
Dairy Products 451 386 576 499 374 -25% 457
Hay 331 355 340 272 296 9% 319
Prepared Food 91 126 139 183 240 31% 156
Coarse Grains* 2,115 1,030 838 521 191 -63% 939
Feeds & Fodders 377 379 267 233 176 -24% 286
All Other 3,615 2,519 2,264 1,889 1,557 -18% 2,369
Total Exported 20,230 21,395 19,476 9,147 13,849 51% 16,819

Source: U.S. Census Bureau Trade Data - BICO HS-10
*Excludes corn


In 2019, U.S. agricultural exports to China totaled $13.8 billion, up from $9.1 billion in 2018. China was the third largest market for U.S. agricultural exports. In 2018, U.S. exports to China decreased due a trade dispute resulting in retaliatory tariffs and slowing economic growth. During 2019, the largest export increases were seen in soybeans and pork and pork products, up $4.9 billion and $729 million, respectively. In addition, increases in U.S. exports of tree nuts, prepared foods, and beef and beef products were up $278 million, $57 million, and $25 million, respectively. China’s retaliatory tariffs continued to suppress exports of U.S. agricultural products.  Sorghum exports were down more than $330 million. Exports of U.S. cotton, hides and skins, and tobacco were also down $216 million, $195 million, and $156 million, respectively. Despite a challenging trade environment, China in 2019 was the top market for U.S soybeans, hides and skins, and sorghum. Brazil (22 percent market share) and the European Union (13 percent) were the top suppliers of agricultural goods to China, followed by the United States with 10 percent.


  • Throughout the U.S.-China trade dispute, China targeted agriculture with retaliatory tariffs limiting opportunities for U.S. exporters. U.S. food and agricultural exports increased during periods of warming bilateral relations, only to plummet when trade tensions ran high.
  • Soybean exports rebounded from 2018 lows as China imported more beans during periods of favorable trade negotiations and taking advantage of low U.S. soybean prices.
  • Tree nut exports were up 85 percent as China imported more pistachios and almonds directly while transshipments through Hong Kong decreased in half.
  • African Swine Fever inflicted significant losses in China’s swine herd, tightening the pork supply, and leading to a spike in market prices. To offset lower domestic production, China imported record volumes of animal and aquatic protein in 2019. Among U.S. products, pork and beef benefited the most from these developments –hitting record values in 2019.

China's Agricultural Suppliers
Graphic showing global agricultural suppliers to China 2015 - 2019

Looking Ahead

On January 15, 2020, the United States and China signed the Phase One trade agreement that includes China’s commitment to purchase additional U.S. agricultural goods over the next two years. On February 14, 2020, the Phase One Trade Agreement officially entered into force. China is expected to meet certain market access goals according to the timeline established in the Agreement. China’s expedience and efficacy in removing structural barriers to U.S. agricultural products and its willingness to lower or waive import tariffs will drive China’s progress towards meeting its food and agricultural purchase commitments, valued at roughly $80 billion over the next two years.

At the same time, various human, animal, and plant diseases and pests will each impact Chinese demand for food and agricultural products and thereby affect U.S. agricultural export prospects in 2020. The outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent disease mitigation measures creates substantial uncertainty for the Chinese and global economies. Disruptions to the free movement of people and goods limit Chinese port and internal logistics capacity and hamper the ability of U.S. producers to market their products in China.

China’s on-going battle against African Swine Fever is expected to keep China’s pork prices at record highs and drive demand for imports. Similarly, in early 2020, China reported several outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza. These diseases continue to add uncertainty and to impact China’s meat and poultry prices and demand unevenly, while also affecting the livestock industry’s demand for U.S. animal feed ingredients, such as soybeans. At the same time, China faces a fast-spreading plant pest problem as fall armyworm, predominantly a corn pest, reaches farms across the country. China’s response to this plant pest will impact grain supply, demand, and trade.

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