Rising global demand for premium forage products and record domestic hay prices pushed U.S. hay-export values to $1.25 billion in 2012, according to the recent International Agricultural Trade Report from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Since 2008, that value has risen by 93%, while volume has increased by 39%.

U.S. hay shipments set new records last year in five market categories: Japan, South Korea, China-Taiwan, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other. Japan, which accounts for about half of U.S. hay exports, imported nearly $600 million. That’s an 18% increase in value despite a 5% decline in volume. The value of hay exports to China increased by 84% compared to what it was in 2011; volume increased by 78%.

In the Middle East, government-mandated water-conservation requirements are limiting domestic hay production and opening new marketing opportunities for U.S. hay products, according to the report.

“In the United Arab Emirates, by far the largest hay importer in the Middle East, the government supports forage imports for non-commercial livestock owners in the Abu Dhabi Emirate,” the report reads. “Officials intend to expand the scheme to benefit farmers in other emirates, further increasing the demand for hay imports.” Forage production in Saudi Arabia will completely phase out by 2016.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to eHay Weekly and get the latest news right to your inbox.

In East Asia, where it’s recognized that premium forage boosts dairy production, the U.S. has a reputation for producing and delivering high-quality hay. Despite increasing competition from other suppliers, including Spain and Australia, U.S. growers have shown “efficient production practices that result in more cuttings per season, which expands exportable supplies,”according to FAS officials.

Roughly 95% of U.S. hay exports originate in Washington, California and Oregon. Less than 4% of national forage production was exported in the 2012 crop year.

You might also like:

 2013: Another Year Of Strong Western Alfalfa Hay Exports

 Expect Softer Western Alfalfa-Hay Prices, Analyst Says