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Monthly Update: Foreign Trade

March '21, latest data
Published on 5/20/21
Monthly Update: Foreign Trade

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The Houston-Galveston Customs District handled 77.0 million metric tons of goods and commodities in the first three months of ’21, a 17.7 percent decrease over the comparable period in ’20. These shipments were valued at $53.2 billion, down 10.2 percent from ’20.

Global shipments have been experiencing delays since the beginning of the year, limiting shipping capacity and inventories, due to large-scale restocking by businesses responding to increased consumer demand. According to the Wall Street Journal, global on-time arrivals of ships to their ports occurred only 40.0 percent of the time in March. Port Houston, however, did not experience backups as large as other areas, and the Houston Customs District ranked first in tonnage and seventh in value among U.S. customs districts during March of ’21. Houston and New Orleans have been the busiest two districts in tonnage for decades. Houston has held the top spot in 10 of the past 13 years. 

Houston exported to 191 countries and imported from 161 during the first three months of ’20. China remains the region’s top trading partner, followed by Mexico, Brazil and South Korea.

Compared to the first three months of ’20, export tonnage decreased 16.4 percent and 13.5 percent in value, which fell by 20.3 percent compared to last year. Imports also decreased by both measures, slipping 22.2 percent in weight and 3.1 percent in value. Mineral fuels, oil and refined products, Houston’s top commodity for both exports and imports, fell in volume by 21.2 and 32.1 percent, respectively. 

During the first three months of ’21, the district handled goods and commodities from 97 trade categories―everything from gasoline to live animals to baskets and straw products. The top five exports, accounting for 81.6 percent of all exports by value, were crude and refined products, organic chemicals, plastics, industrial machinery and motor vehicles. The top five imports, accounting for 54.7 percent of all imports by value, were crude and refined products, industrial machinery, iron and steel, electric machinery and motor vehicles.

Prepared by Greater Houston Partnership Research Division

Heath Duran
Manager, Research

Patrick Jankowski, CERP
Senior Vice President, Research


Key Economic Indicators Foreign Trade International Business
$53.2 billion

Houston handled $53.2 billion of shipments year-to-date.

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