There are concerns that Donald Trump’s election as the next president of the US could disrupt the global trade in grain, and prove particularly harmful to the nation’s farmers.
The US is the world’s largest producer of both maize and soybeans, and the fifth largest producer of wheat, and all of these commodities are exported in significant quantities.
China remains a large buyer of US grain, despite its decision to increase the volume it sources from Russia and Ukraine over the past couple of years. In the case of soybeans, for instance, close to 60% of US exports are to China.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, this amounts to about 30 Mtpa of cargo, and while volumes have been static for the past two years, they are well ahead of the situation in 2012/13 when exports totalled 22 Mt.
Trump’s many negative comments about China made during his election campaign have led several observers to think Chinese buyers could switch suppliers, depending on how the relationship with China’s president Xi Jinping evolves once Trump takes office. Should this happen, Brazil and Argentina would be the obvious beneficiaries, with the US having to look for new markets. Potentially, it would have a destabilising effect on the Panamax dry bulk shipping sector.
Although China is not party to the yet-to-be-ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), Trump has already confirmed that the trade deal will not be signed. This is likely to have an impact on future grain shipments in the region.