Quality Counts: Go The Extra Mile At Every Stage Of The Corn Value Chain

From the start of the corn planting season to the ramp up of the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC) information-sharing activities on last year’s crop as it moves into international channels, quality is more important than ever. The Council recently received reports of stones in corn shipments to Japan – a reminder of how important it is to ensure the U.S. corn crop maintains its high quality at each step of the value chain.

No matter where foreign material – including non-grain plant materials and other objects – is inadvertently mixed with corn cargoes, one point is certain: the presence of foreign material can undermine the reputation of U.S. grains.

“The size of the stones is like that of corn kernels,” said Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan, of the rocks found in Japanese corn shipments. “However, the stones have to be picked up by hand because they cannot be removed by sieves before they go to roller mills.”

Many factors in grain purchasing decisions are beyond control, but by working together, the entirety of the corn value chain can have a large influence over corn quality. Even small actions far removed from U.S. export customers can influence the quality image of U.S. corn when it is received by export customers.

“Quality counts at every point along the way,” said USGC President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Sleight. “It is important to pay attention to good handling practices – from seed development and equipment design, to storage and transporting. The more we pay attention, the more we minimize end-users’ issues, and the more our relationships overseas continue to grow.”

Close attention to quality at each step in the marketing chain pays off among export customers, and U.S. grain industry maintains a good reputation for transparency about grain quality. Each year, the Council produces two corn quality reports, the Corn Harvest Quality Report, released after the U.S. harvest season, and the Corn Export Cargo Quality Report, when corn is assembled for export to overseas customers. These reports, and the Council’s educational events to present the information to buyers, are key parts of continual outreach and are well received each year.

To maintain that reputation, quality is an issue the entire U.S. corn industry must continue to address – working to further learn about the nature of these customer concerns as well as create and implement achievable solutions throughout the process. The Council is committed to having those conversations and finding productive paths forward for all involved.

Global customers value the U.S. grain industry’s ability to meet their needs year-in and year-out via investment and open communications regarding their quality concerns. The industry must continue to commit to the highest levels of grain quality at every level of the supply chain.