US set to lose top spot as global corn exporter to Brazil
Brazil could eclipse the United States as the world’s top exporter of corn within five years, ending decades of U.S. dominance over the market for one of the world’s basic foodstuffs.
Brazil is growing in stature as a global agricultural powerhouse. American farmers, who for generations have boasted of being the world’s breadbasket, now must struggle with grains prices and aging infrastructure. Washington’s efforts to renegotiate trade agreements also could affect exports.
At the same time, cheaper supplier Brazil is reaping the benefit of massive investment in export infrastructure. In 2012/13, the South American country passed the United States as top soy exporter. Three years later, Russia displaced America as No. 1 wheat supplier.
“If you look down the road five, 10 years, absolutely Brazil will compete with the United States to be the No. 1 corn exporter in the world,” said Michael Cordonnier, president of consultancy Soybean and Corn Adviser.
“They have got the land: hundreds of millions of hectares that can be brought into production; they have got the weather; they have got the know-how. On the agronomic side, there is no limit in sight.”
Billions of dollars of investments in Brazil’s ports, particularly in the more accessible north, have ended years of chronic delays for exporters, making shipments cheaper and more reliable and boosting buying from consumers such as China. In addition to soybeans, Brazil is the top global supplier of beef and sugar.
Brazil lags the United States in road infrastructure, but gradual improvement in that area is expected. U.S. farmers face their own challenges. A crumbling lock and dam system on Midwest rivers has hurt their reputation as the world’s most reliable grain suppliers.
The U.S. Agriculture Department projects U.S. corn exports will fall by 6.2 million tonnes, valued at around $1 billion, in the current marketing year. Brazil corn exports meanwhile are expected to rise by 1 million tonnes from a year ago, speeding Brazil’s ascendancy to top exporter.