As record corn harvest ramps up, U.S. Grains Council brings buyers to the table

Farm Forum

With a record corn crop filling the silos this fall, the U.S. Grains Council has been busy bringing foreign buyers to the United States to show them the crop in an effort to encourage overseas customers to shift purchasing patterns back to the United States. In the latest of many foreign delegations visiting the United States this fall, two weeks ago the Council hosted nine buyers from Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Panama, in South Dakota, Missouri and Louisiana.

The Latin America region is home to 12 of the top 20 U.S. corn customers, but the U.S. has recently lost market share. After several years of stiff competition due to high prices and low availability of U.S. corn, however, the tide turn is starting to turn. Colombian importers have already purchased more than 180,000 tons (7 million bushels) of U.S. corn. This is driven by the duty preferences given to U.S. corn under the Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement. Likewise, after a two-year of absence from the U.S. market, Peruvian importers are looking to buy U.S. corn again as there is a duty-free quota for more than 600,000 tons (23.6 million bushels) of U.S. corn in Peru. In the next two months, at least, 90,000 tons (3.5 million bushels) of U.S. corn have been ordered for delivery to Peru.

Currently Ecuador is not buying corn as their local crop is very large, but importers are very interested in U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS). In 2013, Ecuador imported more than 13,000 tons of DDGS. Meanwhile Venezuela was the fifth largest importer of U.S. corn in 2012. Government controls on importers and access to hard currency is a major bottleneck for Venezuelan importers. However the Council is working to build closer relationships in this vital market.

Over the past decade U.S. producers have laid a foundation for a strong export year in Latin America by supporting several Free Trade Agreements which insure that U.S. corn, sorghum and DDGS are very competitive. In addition, regional buyers know that the United States is a reliable supplier of good quality products and are excited to see the large U.S. crop filling the export channels.