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Katrina: No Change for US Agricultural Exports

No Change Forecast for U.S. Agricultural Exports After Katrina

Short delay expected in exports of some major commodities

By Bruce Odessey
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- No change in U.S. agricultural exports is forecast in the short term despite problems brought on by Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports.

In a report released September 12, the department actually forecasts small increases for exports of cotton, maize and soybeans, key U.S. crops coming into harvest season from September to November.

"We would think that the impact, based on what we know now, would be miniscule if even detectable," a USDA official said.

For USDA's 2005-2006 export year, the report forecasts U.S. exports of all feed grain including maize at 290.8 million metric tons, up from a forecast of 287.4 million made a month earlier.

The report does forecast a delay in some exports from September to October, the official said, "but in terms of the overall impact, it was nil."

U.S. production of most agricultural commodities was reported as increasing. How those commodities destined for export will be shipped overseas remains uncertain.

Another USDA official said a limited amount of ocean-bound shipping was leaving from Mississippi River ports north of New Orleans. The port at New Orleans, devastated by the hurricane, ordinarily accounts for 60-70 percent of U.S. grain exports.

Both U.S. producers and foreign buyers are watching eagerly the pace of recovery at New Orleans' port while producers also are exploring ways to get their commodities to other seaports, such as Galveston, Texas, which lies close to New Orleans.

According to the USDA report, Katrina-related disruptions to U.S. poultry exports "are expected to be relatively short term as firms shift exports to other ports."

Because of the hurricane, the United States is expecting more imports of at least one commodity, sugar. USDA forecasts that during the 2005-2006 year U.S. imports of sugar will increase 176,000 tons: 136,000 tons from higher tariff-rate quotas and 40,000 tons from high-tier sugar imports from Mexico.

Imports entering the U.S. market below a tariff-rate quota are subject to much lower tariffs than those above the quota.

The USDA report can be accessed at the department’s Web site.

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