Stiff U.S. corn export competition redrawing global grain flows
By Karl Plume
CHICAGO, June 28 (Reuters) - U.S. corn export sales have outpaced last year as steady buying by Mexico helped to offset sluggish early-season purchases by traditional Asian customers like South Korea and Japan.
Now, Mexico is primed to overtake Japan as the single largest U.S. corn importer, knocking Tokyo from the perch it has occupied since the mid-1980s and taking the top spot for the first time ever.
The shift illustrates how the United States, once the world's lone grain trading superpower, is now relying on its southern neighbor to absorb more of its ever-growing corn stockpile, analysts said, as rising suppliers like Ukraine and Brazil have disrupted global grain trade flows.
It is also the product of a multiyear commodities boom that began in 2007 which bolstered farming in South America and Eastern Europe and grain shipping investments by local governments and large grain traders such as Cargill Inc and Archer Daniels Midland Co.
At risk is the long-standing dominance of U.S. corn exports, valued at $8.3 billion last year and a crucial outlet for about a third of every U.S. corn crop.
"There's been a shuffling of the top of the deck," said Dan Basse, president of Chicago-based consultancy AgResource Co. "It's a very competitive world out there."
The change in export patterns highlights how quickly the fortunes in the farm economy can turn, and how little time companies have to respond to those changes, said traders. U.S. corn exports account for a 6.2-percent share of the agricultural products export total, according to the USDA.
Despite a three-month buying flurry, Japan remains on pace to buy its second-smallest U.S. corn volume since at least 1999, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data. South Korea's haul through mid-June is the second-lowest in a decade. Continuación...