Analysis Shows U.S. Corn Outperforms Other Origins In Starch Yields, Offering A Competitive Advantage in the Export Market

Using Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) funds, the U.S. Grains Council sponsored an industrial starch milling analysis, comparing U.S. corn against corn from competing origins. The analysis looked at the performance of the grain in industrial starch plants and how the different origins affected the overall profitability of the plants. The conclusion found that U.S. corn provides significant additional profitability, worth several million dollars per year depending on the size of the plant.

The study examined U.S., Brazilian, and Argentinian origin corn samples taken directly from customer’s warehouses in Asia, Latin America, and the Mediterranean. The samples were then analyzed by the University of Illinois’ Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, with the study recently being published in the scientific journal Cereal Chemistry. The analysis compared each origin’s wet milling characteristics and starch yields. The experts found that U.S. corn had significantly higher starch yields (68-70 percent) than that of the South American countries (64-66 percent).

The likely reason for these higher starch extractability levels in U.S. corn is due to the corn hybrids used in the United States, which make starch much more readily available than the harder endosperm hybrids in South America.

The study’s conclusion that industrial starch millers can extract higher levels of starch from U.S. corn translates into additional profit for plants that use U.S. corn compared with other origins. For every one percent increase in extracted starch yield from wet milling, the economic return is expected to be one to six cents per bushel, depending on the sales price of the product and plant capacity. To put this into perspective, a wet milling plant with a capacity of 2,540 MT (100,000 bushels) of corn per day could expect roughly $6.5-9 million dollars a year in additional revenue if it were to use U.S. corn. According to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), the industrial corn starch industry worldwide is worth more than $70 billion and consumes approximately 90 MMT (3.5 billion bushels) of corn annually.

As a result of the first year of the study and the marketing with it by the Council, in the 2020/2021 marketing year, an Egyptian starch miller has already purchased four vessels of U.S. corn valued at $60 million. In the two years prior to this purchase, Egypt had no imports of U.S. corn.

The Council will collect two more years of data and broaden the number of international starch plants participating in the study. As new information becomes available, the Council will also roll out these results to more international starch plants to highlight the additional profit opportunity
available in U.S. corn.

With $55,000 in ATP funds invested in this starch program and sales already valued at $60 million, the initial return on investment is $1,090 per $1 of ATP funds invested.