Business Monday

Thanksgiving, an all-American holiday — kitchen appliances notwithstanding

ROBERTS
ROBERTS

If you plan to settle down to a big turkey dinner on Thursday in celebration of Thanksgiving, that most American of all holidays in this least American of all U.S. places — more than 50 percent of us here in Miami-Dade were born in another country — rest assured that the golden bird on which you will feast will not have been not fattened in China.

It was probably fattened on U.S.-grown corn and soybeans in North or South Carolina, Minnesota, possibly Arkansas, Virginia or West Virginia.

But the oven in which you will cook it, the refrigerator in which you store those leftovers, and the microwave you use to reheat them will certainly be imports. But if you think this column is just about China, guess again.

And, if do you celebrate Thanksgiving, here’s something else for which you can be thankful: We have more money in our pockets — or I should say leaving our pockets — since imports of ovens, refrigerators and microwaves are running at record levels.

That’s what the import statistics show, according to WorldCity’s analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, which covers the first nine months of the year.

Yes, it’s possible your oven is U.S. made — a high-end variety, such as those manufactured by Viking in Mississippi, for example. But most of us are import-reliant. Through the first nine months of this year, the United States has imported $1.99billion in non-electric stoves and ranges, with $1.30billion coming from China, and $703.07million electric ones, with $319.37million from China.

At this pace, 2014 will go down as a record year for imports of stoves and ranges. The highest previous total for non-electric variety — principally gas, of course — through the first nine months of the year was in 2007, before the economic downturn, when the total was $1.93billion.

Interestingly enough, neither market leader China — responsible for 65.17 percent of imports this year — nor No.2 Mexico are at record levels this year. Smaller players like Thailand and Italy are, but what is really happening is that a number of nations are having best years for imports at the same time.

The United States has imported more than $1million in stoves from 19 nations this year, including places like Turkey, Israel and Brazil. Manufacturing for certain products is spreading out rather than consolidating and component manufacturing is increasing — final assembly from parts imported from numerous countries — forcing the supply chain to deepen.

On the electric side, the total through September is the highest to date, and China’s market share has remained relatively constant over the last decade at about 45 percent of the total.

How about that refrigerator into which you will stuff all the leftover turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberries and, well, stuffing — this is an American holiday, after all — for later consideration?

Chances are good it came to your kitchen from Mexico. Sure, it could be a U.S.-made Sub-Zero from Wisconsin. But so far this year, the United States has imported $5.50billion in refrigerators and freezers, with $2.78billion coming from Mexico, $1.19billion from China and another $808.36 million from South Korea.

It is also a record year for refrigerator and freezer imports, only the second year the total topped $5 million through just nine months of the year. In fact, just a decade ago, the total through September was but $1.92 billion – less than the total for Mexico alone this year.

Reheating leftovers in that microwave? Think China again. Of the $865.57 million in 2014 imports, $724.53 million arrive from China. Another $91.53 million arrive from Malaysia.

As is the case with stoves and refrigerators, microwave imports will almost certainly set a record when the dust settles on 2014, and it will be the third consecutive year.

A decade ago, the total was $647.49 million, with China’s imports accounting for just $292.12 million of the total. Since then, China’s imports have more than doubled while South Korean imports have fallen from $169.41 million to $25.35 million. Microwave manufacturing has consolidated.

Most of these ovens, refrigerators and microwaves enter through the Los Angeles and Laredo Customs districts, the primary gateway for U.S. trade with China and Mexico, respectively.

But South Florida dabbles in these appliance imports.

The South Florida Customs district has imported $6.49million in stoves this year — about one-third of 1percent of the U.S. total — though it is the highest total since 2007. Twenty-three Customs districts have imported more. Most stoves entering in South Florida are from China — just shy of 70 percent. The second-greatest total are from Italy, with a value of $797,099.

For refrigerators, South Florida has seen imports of a record $36.52 million this year and ranks No.19 among Customs districts. Slightly more than 48 percent of all refrigerators and freezers are Chinese-made but $4.65 million are from Italy and another $3.16million are from South Korea. Of the total, only $898,474 come from the No.1 overall importer into the United States, Mexico.

For microwave imports, South Florida ranks No.10 nationally this year, although its $7.01million total is just 0.81 percent of the total. Of the total, $6.44 million are Chinese arrivals, with $38,993 coming from South Korea.

In the end, the message of record imports of stoves, refrigerators and microwaves should not be lost on you: The U.S. economy continues to improve. When we are importing, we are buying. When we are buying, we have more money or at the very least feel better about spending money.

Certainly, on this most American of all holidays in this least of all American places, that is something for which we can all be thankful.

Ken Roberts is the founder and president of WorldCity, a Coral Gables-based company that pays attention to the impact of globalization on local communities. More import-export trade data is available at www.ustradenumbers.com. He can be reached at kroberts@worldcityweb.com.

Imports of gas ovens, stoves and ranges

Change in rank

Rank

Country

September 2014 YTD

1-year change

1-year change

10-year change

10-year change

$ 1,987,539,133

$132,007,217

7.11%

$572,779,041

40.49%

0

1

China

$ 1,295,186,973

$21,949,701

1.72%

$497,007,194

62.27%

0

2

Mexico

$ 333,740,514

$42,526,324

14.60%

$86,559,192

35.02%

0

3

Canada

$ 136,020,208

$13,692,053

11.19%

-$53,141,722

-28.09%

1

4

Thailand

$ 77,569,282

$39,045,695

101.36%

$73,628,376

1868.31%

-1

5

Taiwan

$ 48,630,886

-$363,753

-0.74%

$824,771

1.73%

0

6

Italy

$ 32,615,629

$7,309,393

28.88%

$25,824,012

380.23%

0

7

South Korea

$ 12,967,656

$877,904

7.26%

-$11,464,587

-46.92%

0

8

India

$ 8,461,641

$2,472,323

41.28%

$7,545,308

823.42%

0

9

Norway

$ 5,293,390

-$630,629

-10.65%

-$916,108

-14.75%

2

10

Japan

$ 5,160,763

$2,094,613

68.31%

-$10,378,098

-66.79%

-1

11

Spain

$ 4,399,855

$410,428

10.29%

-$1,740,979

-28.35%

4

12

Belgium

$ 3,426,193

$1,347,588

64.83%

-$577,003

-14.41%

-2

13

United Kingdom

$ 3,012,140

-$290,333

-8.79%

$1,378,848

84.42%

0

14

Germany

$ 2,620,564

$338,444

14.83%

-$6,203,513

-70.30%

4

15

Israel

$ 2,406,826

$1,112,056

85.89%

$2,406,826

NA

SOURCE: WorldCity analysis of U.S. Census data

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