U.S. Agriculture Exports on the ‘Grow’

September 17, 2013

The volume of agricultural exports, especially those that move in containers, will be higher in the coming year than they were following the drought of 2012, according to agri-business shippers who addressed the South Carolina International Trade Conference this week.

“Agricultural exports as a whole may go up, though the commodities will change,” said Doug Grennen, senior manager of the BCO group at the Scoular Co.

US Agriculture Exports Growing

For example, some cotton farmers this year shifted a portion of their acreage to higher-demand crops, and therefore cotton exports will likely be down about 8 percent, said Michael Symonanis, regional head of execution, North America, at Louis Dreyfus Corp.

Crop substitution makes sense because China the past two years stockpiled cotton, and therefore there will be less of the commodity moving to this important market. And the U.S. has relatively little inventory following last year’s drought.

Because the U.S. is the high-cost producer of cotton, importing nations will source more of their product from lower-cost countries. The bottom line this year is that there is “nothing pulling our commodity through the value chain,” Symonanis said.

The opposite scenario is developing with soybeans. The U.S. is a primary supplier of soybeans, a commodity that is in great demand overseas, especially in Asia, and soybean production should be strong this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects soybean exports to China — the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans — in the coming year will be 17 percent higher than they were this past year.

Although 93 percent of U.S. grain exports move in bulk vessels, the share of containerized grain is edging up, because some buyers value the financial flexibility and infrastructure advantages inherent in shipping 25 metric tons of grain in a container compared with 55,000 tons in a bulk vessel, Grennen said.

However, documentation requirements for smaller shipments are 10 to 20 times higher than for bulk shipments, and the freight cost per ton is higher. That is why shippers of containerized grain must differentiate themselves through their logistics advantages, he said.

Distillers’ dried grains, which are a byproduct of ethanol production, are a booming export commodity. DDGs are a popular feed commodity for cattle, pigs and chickens. “Pigs love DDGs,” Grennen said.

China has 600 million pigs, or 10 times the number in the U.S. DDG exports to China could total 4 million metric tons this year, up from 1 million tons just three years ago.

A problem shared by many shippers of containerized agricultural products is that crops are grown in rural areas, but the empty containers that are needed to carry the grain are located in cities. Repositioning of empties from urban areas to grain silos and transload facilities in the interior can be costly.

However, as ocean carriers continue to introduce bigger container ships into the U.S. trades, they will actively seek grain exports for the back haul to Asia, Grennen said. He indicated carriers could make money on containerized grain exports. “It’s far from the best rate, but it’s not the worst rate,” he said.

Chilled and frozen meat products command a higher freight rate than dry commodities, and they have a bright future in Asia, where the burgeoning middle class seeks high-quality protein products.

Chicken exports are leading the way, said Diogo Lobo, president of Lineage Logistics, but exports of beef and pork are also steady, he said. The U.S. and Brazil are positioned the best to satisfy the growing demand for protein products in the export markets, Lobo said.

To learn more about how you can benefit from PIERS import & export data register to receive a free demo.


U.S. Containerized Imports of Furniture Up in 2Q

September 11, 2013

U.S. containerized imports of furniture continued to grow in the second quarter of 2013, with volume up 1% year-over-year to 561,689 20-foot-equivalent units. This increase, the seventh consecutive quarterly year-over-year rise, was at a slower rate compared to the past four quarters, but despite this, import volume reached its highest level since the second quarter of 2007.

PIERS- Furniture Imports Q22013

Second quarter 2013 containerized furniture imports jumped 5.7% from the first quarter. Mainland China, not including Hong Kong, held 71.7% of the U.S. furniture import market in the second quarter of 2013. Other top countries of origin for U.S. furniture imports in the second quarter were Vietnam, with a 9.4 % share; Malaysia, 3.2%; and Indonesia, 2.9%. Furniture imports from Indonesia in the second quarter jumped 19 % in volume year-over-year.

Italy remained the sixth-largest supplier of U.S. furniture imports in the second quarter, with containerized volume up 10 % year-over-year.

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U.S. Containerized Exports Drop to Two-Year Low

September 4, 2013

U.S. containerized exports fell 6.1% year-over-year in June, to 925,043 TEUs, according to PIERS Data. This was the lowest volume seen since June 2011 and the first time volume fell below 1 million TEUs since January 2013. June containerized exports tumbled 12.5%from May.


“Asia appears to be the main source of weakness,” said PIERS/Journal of Commerce economist Mario Moreno in the August report of JOC Insights. “Foreign investors are pulling billions of dollars out of emerging bond markets in response to signs the Fed may start scaling back its stimulus program, adversely impacting emerging economies in Asia.”

U.S. containerized exports to Asia in June fell 7.5% y-o-y. The trade to Asia also inched down 0.7% year-to-date. January through June exports to all regions increased 0.3% compared with the first half of 2012.

Of June’s top 25 containerized export commodities, the largest declines were in automobiles, down 36%; pet and animal feeds, down 35%t; and auto parts, down 32%. The highest year-over-year increases were in miscellaneous grocery products, which soared 178%; metalware, up 119%; and miscellaneous apparel, up 21%.

Among June’s top 25 destination countries, shipments to Indonesia fell the most, down 43% y-o-y to 12,662 TEUs. Volume to Singapore declined 22% to 10,555 TEUs, and Vietnam followed with a loss of 16% to 13,331 TEUs. The Netherlands saw the steepest growth in exports from the U.S. in June: shipments rose 16% to 18,655 TEUs. Shipments to Belgium totaled 24,472 TEUs in the month, up 14% y-o-y. Exports to India also climbed 14%t, to 29,312 TEUs.

Thanks to our unique data operations infrastructure, which includes onsite port staff who are able to manually scan every export Bill of Lading (including those not filed electronically), PIERS can proudly say we are the only source for complete U.S. export transactions. To learn more about how you can benefit from PIERS export data register to receive a free demo.

Europe’s Containerized Exports to Asia on the Rise

August 27, 2013

June’s containerized exports from Europe to Far East Asia increased year-over-year for the fifth straight month, according to data from Container Trades Statistics. Exports rose to all regions except the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East; volume in that trade fell more than 2%. The biggest regional increase was seen in shipments from Europe to Far East Asia.

European Exports to Far East Asia

Europe exported 578,300 20-foot-equivalent-unit containers to Far East Asia in June 2013, up 9.4% from June 2012 and up 2% from May. In the first half of 2013, European exports to Far East Asia grew 4.7% over the prior year to 3,360,200 TEUs.

European Exports to Far East Asia

European Exports to Australasia/Oceania

Exports from Europe to Australasia/Oceania in June jumped 9.0% year-over-year and 7.4% month-to-month to 44,900 TEUs. This was the largest increase over the year before in this lane in nine months. In the first six months of 2013, exports from Europe to Australasia/Oceania increased 5.5% year-over-year, to 249,100 TEUs.

European Exports to the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East

The containerized export trade from Europe to the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East totaled 274,000 TEUs, falling 2.2% from June 2012 but inching up 0.7% from May of this year. This was the first year-over-year decline since a six-month slump that lasted from October 2012 through March 2013. Exports from Europe in the January-June 2013 period slipped 1.0% year-over-year to 1,533,600 TEUs.

European Exports to North America

Containerized export volume from Europe to North America reached 312,600 TEUs in June, climbing 4.3% from June 2012, when the volume was 299,600 TEUs. Volume was also up 3.1% compared to May’s level. Exports from Europe during the first six months of 2013 totaled 1,789,500 TEUs, 1.7% above the level seen in the same period in 2012.

European Exports to South/Central America

Europe exported 137,600 TEUs to South and Central America in June 2013, an 8.2% increase year-over-year but a 0.3% decline month-to-month. In the first six months of 2013, exports from Europe to South and Central America grew 4.6% year-over-year to 787,000 TEUs.

European Exports to Sub-Saharan Africa

Containerized exports in June rose 3.1% year-over-year to 159,800 TEUs. However, export volume in the lane slipped 2.3% from May. In the first half of 2013, exports from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa grew roughly 8.6% year-over-year, to 909,800 TEUs.

Looking for a complete view of U.S. trade with Europe, including transactional details on individual shipments? Visit www.piers.com to learn more and schedule a demo with our solution experts.

PIERS Reports Growth in U.S. Containerized Imports

August 13, 2013

U.S. containerized imports edged up 0.7% year-over-year in May, following year-over-year growth of 2% in April, according to PIERS data. U.S. containerized imports totaled 1.54 million TEUs in May, the highest monthly volume since August 2012.

“Retailers have come to realize that their expectations in the beginning of the year for a resilient, improving consumer sector were a bit too optimistic, resulting in slowing demand for foreign goods starting the second quarter,” said PIERS/Journal of Commerce economist Mario Moreno in the July report of JOC Insights. “Second quarter imports will likely grow by no more than 2% year-over-year, which is in line with my expectations.”

Containerized import volume in May was up 4% from April.

U.S. Containerized imports May 2013

Leading the gains among the top 25 imports were miscellaneous fruits, with a 39% year-over-year jump; kitchenware, up 17%; and footwear, up 15%. The largest declines were seen in toys, electronic products, and address machinery, all down 9%.

Among the top 25 source countries, U.S. imports from Chile showed the largest increase in May, up nearly 30% year-over-year to 18,718 TEUs. Shipments from Brazil totaled 27,987 TEUs in May, up 26% year-over-year. Ecuador’s exports to the U.S. in May totaled 10,541 TEUs, growing 24.2% year-over-year. Of the largest sourcing country declines, shipments from Japan showed the biggest drop, off 14% year-over-year to 46,381 TEUs. Hong Kong followed with a 13.5% drop to 30,859 TEUs, while Turkey’s volume fell 10.4% to 9,397 TEUs.

To learn more about how you can benefit from PIERS import & export data register to receive a free demo.

U.S. Containerized Exports Rose in May

August 6, 2013

U.S. containerized exports rose 1.5% year-over-year in May, totaling 1,044,837 TEUs, according to PIERS data. The increase followed a similar, albeit smaller, year-over-year rise of 0.8% in April’s volume. May containerized exports were also up 3.2% month-to-month.

“From April to May, exports were up by 1.1% over the same period in 2012, in line with the forecast of 1% growth for second quarter as reported in the June report of Container Shipping Outlook,” said PIERS/Journal of Commerce economist Mario Moreno in the July report of JOC Insights. “The global economy continues to face significant risks, which recently led the IMF to downgrade its 2013 forecast for global GDP from 3.3% to 3.1%.”

US Waterborne Exports May 2013

U.S. containerized exports to Asia in May increased 2% year-over-year, however, year-to-date through May, the trade to Asia was up just 0.4%. January through May exports to all regions increased 1.2% from the year-earlier period.

Of May’s top 25 containerized export commodities, the highest year-over-year increases were in logs and lumber, which increased 18%; fabrics, up 13%; and pet and animal feeds, up 12%. The largest export declines were in scrap metals, down 15%; plastic products, down 14%; and foam waste, down 12%.

Among May’s top 25 destination countries, Turkey had the steepest increase in exports from the U.S. in May — shipments rose 23% to 15,573 TEUs. Shipments to Brazil totaled 28,423 TEUs in the month, up 22% year-over-year. Exports to Colombia also climbed 22% to 13,269 TEUs. On the declining end, shipments to Germany fell the most, down 13% year-over-year to 21,408 TEUs. Volume to Hong Kong also declined 13% to 29,487 TEUs, while Taiwan followed with a loss of 10% to 44,964 TEUs.

Thanks to our unique data operations infrastructure, which includes onsite port staff who are able to manually scan every export Bill of Lading (including those not filed electronically), PIERS can proudly say we are the only source for complete U.S. export transactions. To learn more about how you can benefit from PIERS export data register to receive a free demo.

Top U.S. Imports & Exports with South America

August 1, 2013

Bananas were the top containerized import commodity from South America in April 2013, but it is down 8% over April 2012 and down 5% year to date. The top 10 commodities shown above accounted for 49% of the total box import trade from South America.

Top US Imports from South America

Paper & paperboard was the top containerized export commodity to South America in April 2013. The top 10 commodities shown above accounted for 36% of the total export trade to South America.

Top US Exports to South America in TEUs

For more information about how PIERS Trade Intelligence can help you track U.S. imports & exports for any commodity or region visit www.piers.com or for more trade and economic analysis subscribe to JOC Insights.

JOC Insights by Mario Moreno: U.S. Containerized Apparel Imports Up 3.7% through April

July 30, 2013

U.S. domestic imports of apparel, not knitted or crocheted (HS code 62), are modestly recovering from 2012’s dip. Year to date, through April, apparel imports were up 3.7%, and totaled $12.4 billion. Last year, imports totaled $36.8 billion for a dip of 0.4%, while in 2011 imports totaled $36.9 billion for an increase of 8.0%. 2012 was a mediocre year for apparel imports partly because real disposable personal income per capita experienced sluggish growth.

U.S. Apparel Imports by Dollar Value


China is the largest supplier of apparel (not knitted or crocheted) to the U.S. by dollar value. China sourced 40% of all U.S. apparel imports in 2012, down by 0.6% from 2011. Year to date, through April, China saw its share of imports declined further to 36.8%, despite an increase of 3% of exports to the U.S.

Share of U.S. Apparel Imports by Country and Annual Growth Rate

Imports from other low-cost producers such as Bangladesh and Vietnam are growing faster this year, partly as a result of the fast-pace rising production costs in China. Vietnam’s share has grown steadily in recent years, boosted by rapid export growth. Year to date, Vietnamese exports of apparel to the U.S. jumped 17%, and Vietnam’s share of imports increased to 8.4%. Second-ranked Bangladesh also saw its share of imports increased in recent years and it’s currently holding 10.8% of the total U.S. apparel imports trade year to date. Ultra low wages, which have remained flat for years, spurred an $18 billion garment industry. According to some estimates, average monthly pay in 2009 for workers in Dhaka was $47 compared to $235 in Shenzhen China.

Bangladesh’s exports of apparel to the U.S. rose 8% year to date, a good improvement over the 1% dip seen last year. Nevertheless, exports growth will likely be challenged for the rest of the year in the aftermath of the April 25th collapse of Rana Plaza, an eight-story building in Savar, Bangladesh, killing over 1,000 garment workers. Some apparel retailers have signed a safety pact agreement with the intention of raising payment to suppliers so that factory owners undertake major safety upgrades. Furthermore, the Bangladeshi government has agreed to International Labour Organization proposals that include worker protection rights and liberty to form unions. How will new safety measures and regulations impact container apparel imports from Bangladesh going forward?


U.S. container imports of apparel from Bangladesh were up 7.6% year to date through May, and totaled 34,544 TEUs. By extrapolating the data we can determine the expectation of apparel import volumes from Bangladesh over the next 6 months as the graph shows. This is important because we can estimate the impact of the Rana Plaza disaster and new safety measures and regulations over future container imports of apparel from Bangladesh. For June, apparel imports from this country are expected to grow by 7.4% year over year.

 US Apparel Imports from Bangladesh

More of Moreno’s trade and economic analysis can be obtained by subscribing to JOC Insights or by following him on Twitter @MarioMoreno_JoC.

JOC Group Launches Port Productivity Database

July 23, 2013

JOC Group Inc. is pleased to announce the launch of the Port Productivity database, the first global, apples-to-apples measurement of container port performance.

Download our JOC Port Productivity Whitepaper

The database, which was five years in development, was created to help elevate what for several years have been stagnant overall productivity levels in the container port industry, according to ports and carriers. Based on data provided by a majority of the world’s largest container lines, the database measures container lifts per hour achieved at ports and marine terminals worldwide. Moves per hour, or MPH, is a basic indicator of how quickly ships are loaded, unloaded and sent back to sea to continue their service rotations. The quicker ships are turned around at port, the greater the opportunity for carriers to reduce fuel costs by “slow steaming” their vessels while staying on schedule. Slow steaming reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, while allowing carriers to absorb excess capacity. Vessel turnaround at the berth is also a factor in how quickly cargo is discharged from the port and sent to onward destinations, thus relevant to effective logistics and broader facilitation of trade.

The detailed data behind the rankings of top ports and terminals is available for purchase through PIERS. Download the whitepaper describing the data in detail at joc.com/ppwp.  A free webcast with Andrew Penfold and Dean Davison of Ocean Shipping Consultants will also be held Sept. 5, at 11 a.m EDT.

“The database has a basic overall goal, which is to foster discussion and analysis that will lead to higher port productivity worldwide,” said Peter Tirschwell, JOC Group Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer. “With ships getting larger and trade growing, productivity needs to be improved to avoid bottlenecks and excess cost in the international supply chain.”

This data provides carriers, ports, marine terminals, investors and others with an interest in container ports to compare productivity in detail within a specific port, country, region or among similar entities, revealing opportunities for improvement. The database is an ongoing project that is being expanded through participation by additional carriers and inclusion of additional data elements.

Major carriers supporting the Port Productivity project include: APL, China Shipping, CMA-CGM, COSCO, CSAV, Emirates, Evergreen, Hamburg Sud, Hapag-Lloyd, Hanjin, Hyundai Merchant Marine, MSC, Maersk, OOCL, United Arab and Zim. The 2012 data contains submissions from 17 carriers representing more than 70 percent of the global fleet in deployed capacity according to the Alphaliner rankings. The 2012 Top 20 rankings of terminals and ports in the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia are based on berth productivity defined by total number of container lifts between a ship’s berth arrival and departure time, drawn from 87,000 validated vessel calls to 350 ports and 580 terminals worldwide.

To speak to a sales representative about pricing, visit piers.com/port_productivity or to download the whitepaper register at  joc.com/ppwp.

In a Changing China, Shippers Must Rethink Strategic Goals

July 16, 2013

Restructuring of the Chinese economy will force transportation companies and many manufacturers in southern China and Hong Kong to rethink their long-term strategies, according to shipper representatives.

A number of analysts have downgraded economic forecasts for China this year as the export outlook has deteriorated. But the latest port statistics illustrate that trade to and from northern and central regions is still growing at relatively brisk rates even though export growth has been running in single figures for most of the year.

Of China’s top 10 container ports, the southern ports of Shenzhen and Guangzhou saw the slowest growth in the first five months of 2013.

Hong Kong, which is likely to be supplanted by Shenzhen this year as the world’s third-largest container port by throughput, has fared even worse. Box volumes were 9.1% lower in January-May 2013 than a year earlier. And, although throughput was skewed by a 40-day strike by port workers that started on March 28, the port suffered double-digit year-over-year declines in February and March.

With economic growth slowing after 20 years of rapid expansion, and with the government increasingly focusing on its domestic market, shipping interests see danger signs for logistics demand in Hong Kong and southern China.

“The period of high growth in China many believe has now gone,” Sunny Ho, chief executive of the Hong Kong Shippers’ Council. told The Journal of Commerce. “The government already knows it cannot rely on exports for economic growth as much as before so it doesn’t come as a surprise.”

Rising wages in southern coastal China, meanwhile, has forced shippers to make adjustments, according to John Lu, chairman of the Asian Shippers’ Council. “From the nation’s point of view, wage increases are good, but for shippers, costs are now higher in the traditional manufacturing centers so they are less competitive,” he said. “They have to make major decisions about whether to move factories closer to markets or to the interior of China to bring costs down, or face the cost of high worker turnover.”

“China is looking to reduce its dependency on exports, by growing domestic consumption and that will take a lot of adjustment by manufacturers,” Lu added.

Ho believes shippers and the transportation sector in Hong Kong should plan for a further slowdown in export growth from the Pearl River Delta even though exports via ports in the north such as Tianjin on the Bohai Rim have been performing strongly.

“We are the most hard-hit region because this is where the largest concentration of labor-intensive and low-value production with a strong outward trade concentration is,” he said. “These are the products most seriously impacted by cost increases and the policy changes of central government.”

Hong Kong manufacturers need to upgrade to more premium products, find new markets or explore domestic markets, Ho said. “This is the only way out,” he said. “I think the trend has been continuing for the past seven years, and now it’s having a substantial impact.”

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