Each spring brings the start of a new hatchery season in US aquaculture. The spring also brings the release of trade data by the US Census Bureau, so once again we take a look at the seafood trade deficit (where imports exceed the exports) and how these figures compare to other trade categories. This year, not only do we take a look at the seafood trade deficit, but also describe an example of how the global food market has greatly changed another U.S.-grown product, which could indicate a potential impact on domestic aquaculture production.

The 12 years of trade data we have has enabled us to employ a basic regression analysis. When we completed the analysis in 2011, we found a strong negative correlation between time period and seafood trade deficit value in US$. That equation predicted a deficit value of $10.82 billion projected value for 2012. The actual value in 2012 is a deficit of $10.96 billion, which grew slightly less than 1% to from the previous year. The regression including the actual 2012 value remains significant (P = 0.000) and the R2 is 0.934. The seafood category also maintained its rank at #17 among all deficit-contributing categories in the U.S. Census Bureau data set.


(See Photo gallery: Pecans hit price dip)


To give some perspective, the overall trade deficit of $728.9 billion, grew only 0.21% over previous year. (00190) Wine and Related Products ($7.029 billion) captured its former spot as the second largest trade deficit contributor after being displaced by (00000) Green Coffee in 2011. Surpluses in (22090) Civilian aircraft, engines, equipment, and parts exceeded the (00200) Feedstuff and Food-grains category. The (10000) crude (crude oil) deficit declined 5.81% as the deficit in (10110) Gas-natural declined 40.7% in 2012, after a 75.1% decline in 2010-2011. The numbers in parentheses are the five digit NAICS codes of these respective trade categories.

However, one large jump in a surplus caught our attention. In no food category do we see a larger increase in the trade surplus than in (00140) Nuts and preparations. The trade surplus of this category grew 27.89% since last year. This statistic brought to mind an article read earlier this year on the interest in US-grown pecans by Chinese buyers. In one example, an entire U.S. farm’s annual production of pecans was purchased by Chinese buyers in advance with 25% cash down-payments. This cash availability lured some pecan growers away from U.S. processors who began selling their pecans to Chinese buyers who either process it abroad or sell the nut whole. 20% of U.S. pecan production is now processed in China.