Although corn (or maize, as it’s known throughout much of the world) is grown in nearly all 50 states, production is primarily concentrated in the northern and Midwestern states—collectively known as the U.S. Corn Belt.
In the 2020/2021 crop marketing year, (Sept. 1- Aug. 31) the United States exported 69.8 million metric tons (2.7 billion bushels) of corn to 73 different countries.
China (30.7 percent), Mexico (22.3 percent) and Japan (16 percent) made up the top three U.S. corn export destinations.
The global corn market is increasingly competitive, and the U.S. Grains Council believes that the availability of accurate, consistent, and comparable information is in the long-term interests of all concerned. Improved information will facilitate increased trade – and when trade works, the world wins.
In this effort, the U.S. Grains Council designs two reports, the Corn Harvest Quality Report and Export Cargo Quality Report, to help international buyers of U.S. corn understand the initial quality of U.S. yellow commodity corn as it enters the merchandising channel and as it is assembled for export.
Corn Harvest Quality Report
The Harvest Report assesses the quality of the current U.S. corn harvest as it enters international merchandizing channels.
The 2019/2020 Harvest Report is based on 623 yellow corn samples taken from defined areas within 12 of the top corn-producing and exporting states. Inbound samples were collected from local grain elevators to measure and analyze quality at the point of origin and to provide representative information about the variability of the quality characteristics across the diverse geographic regions.
The sampling areas in the 12 states are divided into three general groupings labeled Export Catchment Areas (ECAs). These three ECAs are identified by the three major pathways to export markets:
The Gulf ECA consists of areas that typically export corn through U.S. Gulf ports;
The Pacific Northwest ECA includes areas exporting corn through Washington, Oregon and California ports; and
The Southern Rail ECA comprises areas generally exporting corn to Mexico by rail from inland port terminals.
Test results from the sample analysis are reported at the U.S. Aggregate level and for each of the three ECAs, providing a general perspective on the geographic variability of U.S. corn quality.
The quality characteristics of the corn identified at harvest establish the foundation for the quality of the grain ultimately arriving at the export customers’ doors. However, as corn passes through the U.S. marketing system, it is mingled with corn from other locations; aggregated into trucks, barges and railcars; and stored, loaded and unloaded several times. Therefore, the quality and condition of the corn change between the initial market entry and the export elevator. For this reason, the 2019/2020 Harvest Report should be considered carefully in tandem with the Council’s 2019/2020 Corn Export Cargo Quality Report, which will follow early in 2020. As always, the quality of an export cargo of corn is established by the contract between buyer and seller, and buyers are free to negotiate any quality factor important to them.
Corn Export Cargo Quality Report
First released in May 2012, the U.S. Grains Council Corn Export Cargo Quality Report provides the results of tests on corn samples collected during the U.S. government-licensed sampling and inspection process for U.S. corn waterborne export shipments. Corn quality information is important to foreign buyers as they make decisions about purchase contracts and processing needs for corn for feed, food or industrial use. This information is important also to all of the other stakeholders in the corn value chain: seed companies, corn producers, handlers, shippers, traders and processors.
As with the Harvest Report, this report is an annual survey of the quality of the U.S. corn exports early in the marketing year. These two reports include information on grades and standards factors and moisture which may be compared to the annual U.S. Grains Exports: Quality Report published by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS). Beyond that, these reports provide information on other important quality factors that have not been surveyed systematically in the past.
As these reports are compiled over several years, they will gain increased value for all stakeholders in the corn value chain – from seed to consumer – by enabling them to see patterns of corn quality based on growing, drying, handling, storage, and transport conditions across the years.
This Export Cargo Report is based on yellow commodity corn samples collected in key export areas. Samples are collected from corn export cargoes as they undergo the standard federal inspection and grading process performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS). The objective of this report is to survey corn quality at export and to provide information about the variability of the quality characteristics within the key export areas.
The Council has chronicled the 2016 growing conditions in its U.S. corn production video, found below. The video examines the crop quality and growing conditions of U.S. corn producers in four U.S. states and is being presented to international audiences in conjunction with findings from the reports.