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Brazil opens market for U.S. corn imports

Brazil possibly may import up to 1.5 million metric tons in coming months to meet feed grain needs.

Brazilian regulators paved the way Thursday for imports of U.S. corn following a short crop, according to industry sources.

The National Biosafety Technical Commission, known as CTNBio, met and authorized the outstanding biotech products needed to open the Brazilian market to U.S. corn.

While imported corn still may be subject to traceability measures, given the expectation that some products would receive approval only for use as food or feed and not environmental release, the local industry is expected to bring in as many as 1.5 million metric tons in the coming months to meet their feed grain needs.

Brazil has faced a significant shortfall in its 2015-16 corn crop, particularly in its second winter crop, with an estimated 16 mmt less corn produced this year than in 2014-15. The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said this has halved exports and prompted imports from regional producers Argentina and Paraguay. “To date, the United States has not been able to fill the demand due to lack of approvals of some biotech products used by U.S. farmers,” the council explained.

USGC staff and consultants in the organization's Washington, D.C., office and the region have worked closely with biotech companies, Brazil's industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture while permission was sought for U.S. imports, and the council said it will continue to engage to ensure that upcoming trades are conducted successfully.

Cary Sifferath, USGC senior director of global programs, and Alfredo Navarro, USGC consultant in Brazil, recently traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to meet with key industry organizations and USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) staff in Brazil to assess the situation and provide information on the U.S. corn market.

The effort to allow access for U.S. imports shows the growing importance of policies to enable trade in the absence of synchronous biotech approvals, USGC noted.

“The coming trades between countries that typically compete for corn sales also shows the fluidity and diversity in the global grain market, in which U.S. producers are typically able to cover grain needs from even large corn producers when crops are short,” USGC added.

The U.S. typically imports a small amount of corn from Brazil each year based on logistical costs and other factors. In 2012-13, following a major drought, the U.S. was a large importer of corn and was Brazil's fourth-largest customer.

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