After hitting an all-time monthly high in October, alfalfa hay exports in November were down 19% from the previous month but still up 9% from November 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As we had expected, November alfalfa hay exports to China, the big driver behind the October highs, were down about 37% from October.
With the removal of the extra Chinese tariff on U.S. alfalfa hay back in September, exports to China rose drastically in September and October. We were told by contacts that this sharp increase had backed up warehouses at Chinese ports. In November, some exporters had been asked to delay shipments so they would arrive after the Chinese New Year later this month.
The big surprise from the report was alfalfa hay exports to Saudi Arabia were the lowest in two years. According to sources, the rule to limit forage crop production on large farms in Saudi Arabia has been hard to enforce, and some farmers have been exploiting a loophole. As a result, supplies of domestic hay in Saudi Arabia are better than expected.
Overall, alfalfa hay exports to all countries from January through November 2019 were up 6% over the same period from a year ago.