ARLINGTON, VA. — The US animal food industry remains competitive in international markets, according to the American Feed Industry Association’s (AFIA) 2022-23 State of the US Animal Food Industry report. In 2022, the value of US pet food exports was up 20% year-over-year, and total US animal food exports to China were up 10% over the same period at $7.5 billion in value.

In volume, the United States exported 9 million tonnes of product in 2022, including dog and cat food, feed additives, premixes and compound feeds, alfalfa and hay, protein meals and fishmeal. By value, the top export markets for US animal food products are Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and Mexico.

In all, the United States has added $9.6 billion to annual agricultural export value on average since 1977.


Overseas opportunities

To support the advancement of US animal food exports, the AFIA shared its strategic efforts in three key countries: China, Vietnam and Brazil.

China has been climbing the ranks in terms of US dog and cat food imports since 2020 and now represents the second-largest export market for these products. The country imported a record $264 million in dog and cat food products in 2022. Similarly, feed additive exports from the United States to China grew $91.5 million from 2020 to 2022.

This is in part thanks to the establishment of a Phase One trade agreement with China inked in 2020, as well as an improvement to the facility registration process in China. According to the AFIA, the US Agricultural Marketing Service took responsibility for the process in January 2023 and has since registered 21 new animal food facilities and 42 new products for export to China.

In Vietnam, an updated health certificate for dry pet food products is expected to benefit US exports to the country. The certificate was a part of new international regulations set by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

According to the AFIA, Vietnam has upped its pet food imports by 69% over the last five years, which poses an opportunity for US dog and cat food exporters. The association cited a burgeoning middle class and an increasingly knowledgeable pet owner population make Vietnam a key export market opportunity for pet food in the coming years.

Through the USDA’s Emerging Market Program (EMP), the AFIA was able to compile an assessment of Brazil’s animal food market. The assessment revealed Brazilian manufacturers are seeking fairly priced, high-quality ingredients, and are also seeking supplier partners as they shift their sourcing focus away from China.

For US animal food exporters, however, barriers into the Brazilian market remain. These include regulatory hurdles, such as “confusing and inconsistent product registration,” according to the AFIA. To help alleviate these impediments, the association has applied for funding through the MAP which, if approved, the AFIA will use to tackle business-to-business regulatory barriers of entry in the Brazilian animal food market.

Earlier this year, the AFIA was also a recipient of $146,582 in funds issued through the USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP). The funds are earmarked for promotional activities that support the global prominence of US products and were part of a $202.7 million funding initiative to support 67 nonprofit organizations undertaking this same mission.


Crisis averted

The threat of animal disease looms over the pet food and animal feed supply chains and also poses potentially devastating trade impacts for US producers. To this end, the AFIA worked with the USDA APHIS to update its export certificate, specifically the Veterinary Services (VS) 16-4 form.

The previous VS 16-4 form stated that “rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, swine vesicular disease, African swine fever, and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia do not exist in the United States of America.” The update moves this statement from the letterhead to the additional declarations section, enabling APHIS to strike a specific disease from the form in real time without going through extensive review processes, according to the AFIA.

This means that in the event of an animal disease outbreak — such as African swine fever (ASF) — US animal food products would not automatically be barred for exportation. The AFIA noted it will continue to work with APHIS to streamline export certificates country-by-country and product-by-product to avoid potential disruptions.


Ongoing obstacles

These efforts to build trade for the US animal food industry are hindered by a lack of negotiating authority on the global stage. In the summer of 2021, the Biden administration failed to renew the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which assists US leaders in establishing free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries. Without this, “the administration cannot expect support from Congress for any negotiated trade deal,” wrote Gina Tumbarello, senior director of international policy and trade at the AFIA.

According to the AFIA, “FTAs serve as a vehicle for the United States to reduce tariffs and enforce trade measures critical to lowering farmers’ feed prices and diversifying US suppliers amid ongoing geopolitical tensions. Absent traditional FTAs, the AFIA is pursuing opportunities for agriculture to be included in nontraditional frameworks and dialogues, such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.”

While reestablishing negotiating power is one overarching obstacle for US animal food exporters, the AFIA continues to work with the USDA and other organizations to level the playing field in specific countries and regions to help US products compete globally.

Read more from AFIA's 2022-23 State of the US Animal Food Industry report, including industry challenges and sustainability initiatives.

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