Early indications point to strong demand for western U.S. alfalfa hay from Saudi Arabia in 2019. This is due to the Saudi Arabian government not allowing large alfalfa farms to use water for irrigation in the future and no alfalfa could be planted in Saudi Arabia after September 2018. Much of the alfalfa hay exported to Saudi Arabia has come from the Southern California and Arizona desert, but that could expand into other areas of the West in 2019.
The other key element on export demand is China. If the trade war with China is settled in the coming months, there will be pent-up demand from Chinese dairies for western U.S. alfalfa hay. West Coast alfalfa hay exports to China in September and November 2018 were down 32 to 47 percent, respectively, from the previous year. Many Chinese dairies prefer alfalfa hay from the western U.S., but it has been too expensive since the tariffs started last summer. They have been buying lower priced but not as good of quality alfalfa hay from Spain and from the Sudan in Africa.