Brazil is world’s largest corn exporter

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In the 2012/13 season Brazil was the world’s largest corn exporter, accounting for more than 25 percent of the world total trade. That is pretty amazing for a country that exported about 4 million tonnes of corn a decade ago with a market share of around 6 percent.

If this expansion in Brazil’s corn sector continues it may have a big impact on the U.S. corn market. We need to see U.S. corn exports rebound to limit the increase in stocks and the pressure on prices.

Perhaps the biggest change in Brazil’s corn sector has been the expansion of the “safarinha” or double-crop corn production which accounted for more than half of the 2012/13 crop. Production of second crop corn has increased by nearly four-fold over the past decade. And despite the increase in the share of the crop double-cropped, corn yields in Brazil have risen significantly.

The average corn yield for 2001/02 through 2003/04 was 3.3 tonnes per hectare compared to current yields of 4.8 to 5.0 tonnes per hectare. Full season corn area has actually declined by more than 2.5 million hectares since 2003/04.

Corn production in Brazil has nearly doubled over the last decade while domestic consumption has increased by about 50 percent. The result is that Brazil has a lot more corn to export. In 2012/13, Brazil’s exports are put at 24.5 million tonnes. For 2013/14 USDA is forecasting lower area, yield, production and exports for Brazil. These reductions allow for a big rebound in U.S. exports this season.

Brazil’s corn yields were very high in 2012/13. Using the 1998 through 2012 data, the long term trend yield for corn would have been 4.7 tonnes per hectare compared to the actual yield of 5.1 tonnes. The increase in corn area has also accelerated in the last couple of years, and exceeded the long term trend for the crop recently harvested. These deviations may indicate that the long term trends are no longer valid. However, if we extend the long term trends out into the future, Brazil’s corn production rises to 80 million tonnes in 2015 and 98 million in 2020. With relatively slower growth in domestic demand, Brazil’s surplus production rises to 35 million tonnes, or about 1.4 billion bushels by 2020/21.

Unless the dynamics of the corn sector in Brazil change significantly over the next few years, Brazil will continue to be a major competitor in the world corn market which will affect the level of U.S. corn exports.

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