U.S. corn has faced increasing competition – and U.S. market share has become highly variable – in Egypt, a market that imports approximately 10 million metric tons (nearly 394 million bushels) of corn annually.
U.S. Grains Council (USGC) staff discovered that some of the largest importers in the country are experiencing storage issues that are negatively impacting use of U.S. corn. USGC staff immediately worked to develop an action plan to help some of the country’s corn processors improve their storage practices – all while dispelling misconceptions about U.S. corn quality.
Egypt is the largest corn market in the Middle East and Africa region. This price-sensitive market is highly competitive with the United States losing out on sales to Argentina, Ukraine and Brazil. Not all corn importers and end-users have access to vertical silos for grain storage, so the use of flat warehouse storage is common. Due to poor management practices in these flat warehouses, Egyptian importers are experiencing a range of storage problems, including heat and germ damage.
“The Egyptian market is challenging, making trade servicing essential to growing trade of U.S. coarse grains and co-products,” said Kyle Gilliam USGC manager of global strategies and trade. “We traveled to Egypt multiple times in 2019 to meet with end-users and discovered corn storage issues are the major barrier to market access. Now, we are working with customers and grain handling and storage consultants to help these end-users learn how to better monitor and store their grain, addressing these issues with practical solutions.”
Dr. Klein E. Ileleji, associate professor and extension engineer in agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University, accompanied USGC staff to decipher what protocols were needed to improve the quality of corn stored and extend the time it can be stored.
Each flat warehouse is 5,000 square feet. Corn is stored approximately eight meters (26.2 feet) deep, leaving two to three meters (6.6-9.8 feet) in headspace. The warm, humid Egyptian climate is not favorable to storing corn in these conditions. For example, when condensation occurs on the roof of the warehouse, moisture drips on top of the corn, producing a crust layer and rapidly reducing quality.
Ileleji discussed warehouse management practices to improve these storage conditions. Portable fans and tubes placed evenly throughout the warehouse pull air through the corn and effectively keep it from heating up – extending storage time. Installing exhaust fans in the headspace replaces that warm, humid air with cooler, dry air, which keeps humidity levels lower and reduces condensation. Finally, keeping detailed records and updating them biweekly with information on temperature and moisture content helps keep track of the corn’s condition from the time it is imported until it is removed from the warehouse.
Importers able to use vertical silos also have issues with crusting and caking of corn as well as increased pest damage. A lack of space prevents effective fumigation and these facilities are unable to effectively reach out and clean the tops of these silos.
As a result, the Council recommended using exhaust fans to properly cool the grain – and doing so at the appropriate time of day so hot air from inside the silo is not replaced with hot air from outside the silo. Installing an inverted cone spreader helps spread the grain to the outer edges of the silo while other materials can be used to repel insects and absorb moisture.
Because of this initial outreach, two importers committed to trying these solutions in one of their warehouses or silos. If results are successful, they will expand use to other storage facilities so they are better positioned to import corn from the United States.
“The importers responded very positively to the solutions we provided and were excited about the potential results,” Gilliam said. “Follow-up visits and meetings with these Egyptian importers will be important as they implement and expand use of these grain storage practices.”
The Council will continue to help Egyptian importers develop the infrastructure needed to improve grain monitoring and storage, which will improve the shelf life of U.S. corn when it arrives in Egypt. These solutions may also be applied to other markets in similar climates – providing even more opportunities to encourage practical solutions and promote U.S. coarse grains and co-products.
About The U.S. Grains Council
The U.S. Grains Council develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products including distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and ethanol. With full-time presence in 28 locations, the Council operates programs in more than 50 countries and the European Union. The Council believes exports are vital to global economic development and to U.S. agriculture’s profitability. Detailed information about the Council and its programs is online at www.grains.org.