What is in this article?:
- Several countries ramping up corn production
- Market wide open
- Over the last decade or so, US farmers and commodity traders have had to pay more attention to South American corn production, particularly Brazil and Argentina. Today that view has to include countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa as well.
One of the speeches at the recent USDA Outlook Forum was given by Mariano Marquez, director of commodity analysis for Brazil’s crop assessment agency. In that speech, Marquez summarized the changes in the production, domestic consumption, and exports of corn and soybeans in both Brazil and Argentina and the effect these changes have on US markets. His presentation got us to thinking beyond these three countries and their impact on each other’s agricultural markets. To start, we decided to take a broader look at corn.
In 2000, the US, Brazil, and Argentina accounted for nearly 84 percent of world corn exports, with China making up another 9 percent. These four countries were responsible for 93 percent of the world exports of corn. It took 33 other countries to make up the remaining 7 percent of world corn exports.
By 2011, these four—US, Brazil, Argentina, and China—were responsible for only 70 percent of world exports with Brazil and Argentina posting small gains in their share of world exports, 1.3 and 2.1 percentage points respectively. China had virtually dropped out of the world corn export market; in 2011 it was, instead, a net importer of 154 million bushels. US exports of corn declined by 241 million bushels comparing 2000 to 2011 while China’s corn exports declined by 279 million bushels.
In addition to Brazil and Argentina, 33 other countries increased their share of world exports led by Ukraine, India, EU-27, Serbia, Russia, Paraguay, and South Africa. The total share held by these 7 exporters in 2011 was 26%. Ukraine, alone, increased its exports by a larger number of bushels than the combined decline of China and the US.
The decline in US exports of corn was not the result in a decline in the international trade of corn; it increased by 712 million bushels. Neither was the lower share of corn exports the result of a decline in production—US corn production increased by 25 percent between 2000 and 2011.
Most of the increase in US corn output went for domestic ethanol production. Similarly, domestic factors drove change in China as well. A large portion of China’s increased corn production was used for food and feed. In case of the US, it is doubtful that the increased use of grain for ethanol prevented the filling of a large number of export orders. Rather the higher corn prices provided encouragement for other countries to increase corn production and thereby increase export competition for the US.