grain barge river elevator DarcyMaulsby /iStock/Thinkstock.
This barge on the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa is taking on a load of grain, either corn or soybeans, from area farms.

Exports of U.S. feed grains setting records

Market access, technical education and trade servicing becoming increasingly important.

Exports of U.S. feed grains in all forms (GIAF) are 96.9 million metric tons, up 20% year over year from September 2016 through June 2017, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and analysis by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC).

“With only two months left in the 2016-17 marketing year, exports by this measure that is inclusive of feed grains and the products they produce could set a new record high -- a result of attractive U.S. prices and diligent work by the council to maintain longtime trading partners and find new areas of near-term demand,” USGC said.

U.S. ethanol exports have already reached a new all-time high of 1.15 billion gal. this marketing year, surpassing the 1.09 billion gallons exported in 2011-12, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. Ethanol exports to Brazil more than quadrupled to 438 million gal., even though purchases are expected to slow in coming months.

Exports of U.S. ethanol to Canada, a key partner through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), increased to 263 million gal., a 5% increase compare to the same period in 2016. India also set a new record for U.S. ethanol purchases, which more than doubled year over year to 116 million gal., data show.

Exports of U.S. corn increased 36% on the year to 49.9 million tons (1.96 billion bu.), already exceeding export totals for the last five marketing years.

U.S. corn exports to Japan, the traditional top customer of U.S. corn, are up 48% from the same year-ago period to 11.5 million tons (453 million bu.), surpassing last year’s total with two months of sales still remaining. USGC pointed out that U.S. corn sales to several countries have already outpaced historical sales, including a new record set for exports to Saudi Arabia, the highest exports to Taiwan since the 1994-95 marketing year and the most corn exported to South Korea in the last 10 marketing years.

The council is also seeing increased demand for U.S. dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) as a result of price and efforts to promote the product in a diverse set of markets.

According to the data, sales of U.S. DDGS dropped significantly for the two largest traditional markets: China and Vietnam. While this void had a substantial impact, it left ample supply for other world buyers to purchase, and USGC programs throughout the world are helping end users learn how to incorporate U.S. DDGS into their rations. As a result, overall purchases are only just behind last year’s export pace, at 9.32 million tons. In contrast, exports to Mexico, this year’s top market, are up 9% year over year to 1.69 million tons.

Turkey now ranks as the second-largest market for U.S. DDGS, with purchases nearly doubling over the year to 1.11 million tons, the largest amount since the country started purchasing DDGS in 2004-05. U.S. DDGS exports to South Korea and the European Union also set new sales records at 847,000 tons and 792,000 tons, respectively.

In contrast, U.S. barley exports are down significantly, driven by a drop in sales to Mexico, traditionally the top customer, but USGC said exports to Canada and Japan jumped substantially, with both already exceeding their total purchases last marketing year to reach 62,700 tons (2.88 million bu.) and 22,900 tons (1.05 million bu.), respectively. In Japan, the council’s market promotion efforts are building demand for barley food-based products, directly benefiting U.S. producers through this increase in sales (note that the marketing year for barley differs from corn and runs from June to May).

Export sales of U.S. sorghum have also decreased significantly thus far in the marketing year, according to USGC. However, China kept its status as the largest customer, with 3.94 million tons in purchases from September through June. U.S. sorghum exports to Japan more than doubled to 182,000 tons, the highest amount in the last five years, while Mexico increased purchases of U.S. sorghum 6% on the year to 524,000 tons.

As the 2016-17 marketing year comes to an end, USGC and its members are celebrating a strong export year while at the same time preparing for a challenging 2017-18 marketing campaign.

“Engagement with both long-standing trading partners and opportunistic buyers, combined with attractive prices, have allowed U.S. feed grains and co-products to move into markets old and new,” USGC said. “As the current marketing year ends and the new one begins, this work on market access, technical education and trade servicing will become increasingly important to secure U.S. market share and continue the council’s mission of enabling trade, developing markets and improving lives.”

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