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Borderlands: Port Houston’s trade jumps 51% to nearly $17B

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Port Houston’s trade in October jumps 51% to nearly $17 billion; automotive production in Mexico drops 20% in November; Mexico OKs another state to export avocados to the U.S.; and Constellation Brands will build an export brewery in Mexico.

Port Houston’s total trade up 51% to $17B in October

Port Houston’s trade totaled $16.9 billion during October, an increase of 51% compared to the same period last year, according to a WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Port Houston’s trade totaled $137 billion for the first 10 months of 2021, a 31% increase compared to the same period in 2020. 

Port Chairman Ric Campo said 2021 has been an “interesting year.”

“There’s been lots of really good stuff going on, but also a very complicated year for our team,” Campo said during the port’s monthly meeting Tuesday.

Exports increased 50% year-over-year in October, while imports grew 53%.

Trade was boosted by imports of gasoline/fuels ($5.58 billion); oil ($5.25 billion); passenger vehicles ($2.05 billion); iron tubes/pipes ($1.17 billion); and furniture ($1.06 billion).

Top exports included gasoline/fuels ($2.08 billion); liquified natural gas/petroleum gases ($1.45 billion); oil ($1.34 billion); plastics ($575 million); and acyclic hydrocarbons ($318 million).

Port Houston’s top international trade partners during October were China ($1.68 billion); Mexico ($1.29 billion); Brazil ($1.21 billion); South Korea ($797 million); and Japan ($797 million).

The port ranked sixth for total trade among the nation’s roughly 450 airports, seaports and border crossings and is the third-ranked seaport, behind Port of Los Angeles and Port of Newark.

“One of the things that is really cool is that the Army Corps of Engineers came out with their 2020 statistics and the Houston Ship Channel is still at  No. 1 in total tonnage in the U.S.,” Campo said. “We handled more than 275 million short tons of cargo during 2020.”

Campo said looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, the port aims to expedite Project 11, a $1.1 billion widening and deepening of the Houston Ship Channel.

“Port Houston’s [Army Corp of Engineers] ranking highlights the need to continue to make improvements and expedite our Project 11 to make sure that we ensure sustainable opportunities for our community and industry for generations,” Campo said.

The port commission also recently approved its fiscal year 2022 operating and capital budget.

“We’re investing in the future with a lot of things — additional yard capacity and equipments, 12 ship-to-shore cranes, 19 rubber-tired gantry cranes, two additional container yards, two new container berths, additional wharves/turning basin facilities and redevelopment of general cargo and breakbulk docks.”  

Weekly maritime imports into Port Houston (WICSTM.USHOU) totaled 29,147 shipments last week. The port’s weekly maritime shipments were up significantly year-over-year (as indicated by the blue line) compared to 2020 (red line), according to FreightWaves’ SONAR platform, which collects data on the daily number of customs filings for maritime imports.

To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

Automotive production in Mexico drops 20% in November

Mexico’s auto production of passenger vehicles recorded its lowest monthly output since 2012 in November at 248,960 vehicles assembled, according to data from Mexico’s national statistics agency (INEGI).

The output represents a 20% decline compared to the same period in 2020, when 312,184 vehicles were produced.

Auto exports declined by 16% to 240,341 units, INEGI statistics showed.

It was the fifth month in a row that automotive output for passenger vehicles was down, fueled by an ongoing shortage of semiconductors.

AMIA chief Fausto Cuevas forecast that Mexico’s auto production would return to pre-pandemic levels by late 2023 or in 2024.

The companies with the largest monthly declines were Japanese automaker JAC (97%), Mercedes-Benz (69%) and General Motors (44%).

Mexico OKs another state to export avocados to US

Mexico’s agriculture department said it has reached an agreement with U.S. authorities on a plan to allow avocados from a second Mexican state to be exported to markets across the United States.

The state of Jalisco could begin exporting avocados as soon as early next year’s harvest season, according to the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

Since 1997, the state of Michoacán has retained the sole right to export avocados to the U.S.

Mexico is the largest avocado producer in the world, with a volume that exceeded 2.3 million tons in 2020. Mexico supplies most of the avocados imported into the U.S., totaling $2.8 billion during the 2019-20 growing season.

The ports of entry in Laredo and Pharr, Texas, are two of the largest gateways for avocados from Mexico into the U.S., combining for more than $2 billion last year.

Constellation Brands to build large export brewery in Mexico

New York-based Constellation Brands Inc. recently announced it will build a $1.3 billion brewery in southeastern Mexico.

The brewery’s exact site has not been officially announced, but Mexican officials have reportedly said it will be built in the state of Veracruz, along the Gulf of Mexico, according to El Economista.

The company, which distributes Corona beer and other Grupo Modelo brands across the U.S., was planning to build a factory in the Mexican city of Mexicali, along the California-Mexico border.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador halted plans for the Mexicali brewery in March 2020 after the facility ran into opposition from local residents who had concerns about its water consumption.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact nmahoney@freightwaves.com