Audio: While China Dominates Headlines, U.S. Grains Flow Globally

Sales to China continue to vastly outpace those to other U.S. corn and sorghum markets. Yet, behind the headlines, a half-dozen other countries and several emerging markets are also proving to be strong buyers of U.S. grains.

The U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) Senior Director of Global Programs Cary Sifferath recently discussed with the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) what countries are setting a strong buying pace and and how the Council is working to develop and access a variety of overseas markets for U.S. producers.

“You never know when China may change things up; just as fast as they turn the buying on, they can shut things down for political or other reasons,” Sifferath said. “So, we’re always looking for and developing new markets, whether that’s six or 12 months out or even longer-term. It’s about what can we do to create new markets five or even eight years from now, even.”

The Council works to overcome market share issues and continue to develop new markets in other locations around the world.

“Vietnam, which is already a very big corn importer globally, imports about 11 million tons of corn a year or about 433 million bushels,” Sifferath said. “Egypt is another big corn importer, about 10 million tons or 394 million bushels a year. Even in the rest of North Africa, we’ve seen Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, where we’ve worked for numerous years, come back into buying U.S. corn here lately. “

In addition to Mexico, which has been the number one U.S. corn export market for the last four years and has trade preferences under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), countries with which the United States has free trade agreements are also big buyers, according to Sifferath.

“All of the markets in the CAFTA-DR – the Central America Free Trade Agreement plus the Dominican Republic – are strong buyers this year. You’re looking at Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, plus the Dominican Republic. I cluster that whole Central America market together. It’s a very significant market, worth about 4-to-4.5 million tons, or about 158 to 177 million bushels.

“Peru, where we also have a free trade agreement, used to be a top-five market for us. It kind of dropped off over the last year and this year, in part because Peru has been hit very hard by COVID-19, although they’re starting to come back from that now,” Sifferath added.

While trade dynamics change from year to year and markets fluctuate, the Council continues to look for ways to fulfill its mission of developing markets, enabling trade and improving lives across a diverse set of buyers.

Listen to Sifferath’s full interview.