Co-ops continue trade recovery, paced by bulk goods
By Tracey L. Kennedy
USDA/RBS Agricultural Economist
Editor’s Note: USDA’s Rural Business-
Cooperative Service began an annual survey
of cooperative involvement in international
markets in 1997. Prior to 1997, cooperative
exports and imports had been measured at
five-year intervals. An overview of survey
findings for 2000, with comparisons to 1997-
1999, is presented here.
n 2000, U.S. cooperative
exporters continued their
recovery from the global
currency and financial
crises that plagued world
markets in the late 1990s. Export sales of
more than $5.95 billion were reported, a
jump of almost 25 percent compared
with a 6.4 percent increase for U.S. agricultural
exports as a whole (USDA). Following
record sales in 1997, cooperative
exports had fallen off sharply in 1998 and
had begun to recover only slightly by
1999 (figure 1).
While trends in U.S. trade point to
the increased importance of differentiated
products relative to bulk commodities,
exports by U.S. cooperatives remain concentrated
in bulk products. Of the total
for 2000, $3.99 billion, or 67 percent of
exports, consisted of bulk commodities
such as grains, oilseeds, and cotton, compared
to 41 percent for U.S. bulk sales.
The majority of these shipments originated
from a small number of large
cooperatives. Consumer-oriented or
high-value products, such as fresh and
processed fruits and vegetables, accounted
for $1.62 billion, or 27 percent, of the
total, compared to 36 percent for all U.S. consumer products.
Intermediate products ingredients and partially processed
products, such as flours, meals, oils and feed accounted for
$235 million, or almost 4 percent, compared to 21 percent
for comparable U.S. sales. In addition, exports of various
farm inputs and equipment totaled $108 million, or about 2
percent, of the total.
Cooperatives’ overall share of U.S. agricultural exports
(excluding fisheries, farm inputs, etc.) for 2000 was approximately
11.3 percent. Co-ops had a 21.5 percent share of U.S.
bulk commodity exports, 7.4 percent of consumer-oriented
products, and 2.1 percent of intermediate products.
Among the 91 cooperatives reporting in 2000, export sales
continued to be concentrated among a few of the largest cooperatives,
with six co-ops each having sales in excess of $100
million responsible for 79.6 percent of
total exports. Those six cooperatives represented
a range of agricultural products and
geographic areas. The magnitude of exports
among individual cooperatives ranged from
less than $10,000 to almost $3 billion.
Co-ops recover across most
commodities; market shifts continue
Exports by cooperatives showed improvement
across two of three major product categories
in 2000 (figure 2). Bulk commodity
sales (primarily grains, oilseeds and cotton)
dropped more than 50 percent, from $5.4
billion in 1997 to $2.5 billion in 1998 and
$2.2 billion in 1999. However, they showed
a marked improvement in 2000, increasing
46 percent, to nearly $4 billion. Indeed,
increased sales of bulk commodities accounted
for most of the gains in total cooperative exports from 1999.
Consumer-oriented products (mainly fresh and processed
fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, meats, dairy products and
other processed products), which had declined throughout
1998 and 1999 (10.8 percent and 17.5 percent, respectively),
increased 15 percent in 2000, to more than $1.6 billion.
Only 12 percent of the cooperative export gain in 2000 was
attributable to consumer-oriented products, compared to the
much higher proportion (two-thirds) registered by U.S. sales
of the same types of products.
Intermediate products (semi-processed products and
ingredients or inputs such as feed components, flour, meal,
oil, and animal byproducts) fell 24 percent from 1997 to
1998, then recovered with a 60-percent increase in 1999. In
2000, they fell off more than 52 percent, to $235 million.
Asia continued as the largest regional
destination for cooperative exports in
2000, accounting for $2.46 billion, or
41.5 percent, of the total (figure 3). Latin
America (primarily Mexico) continued to
emerge as an increasingly important customer,
growing $1.41 billion, or 23.6
percent. African markets also climbed,
with $600.7 million, or 10.2 percent of
the total, while European destinations
continued to decline in importance,
accounting for $532.4 million, or 8.9 percent,
of co-op exports.
While 2000 appears to have marked a
turning point for cooperative exporters
following the global economic woes of
the late 1990s, continued structural
change via mergers, alliances and dissolutions
in a number of commodity subsectors
signal significant change in future
co-op trading patterns.