Corn export sales have been extremely slow so far this year, calling into question the forecast for the 2012/13 season.

As of the first week in January, corn export sales for this year totaled just over 500 million bushels, about half the level recorded for the same week last season. Based on the average of the past five years, usually 56 percent of the annual total sales are on the books by this point in the season. If that holds this year, export sales will total less than 900 million bushels for the season. That would be well short of the most recent USDA forecast.

In contrast, soybean export sales are running well ahead of year-ago levels. As of last week sales total 1.14 billion bushels, up 27 percent from 2011/12. The pace of sales suggests that exports for this year will come in close to the USDA forecast. U.S. export sales are expected to begin to slow in the months ahead as supplies from what looks like a record South American crop become available to the market.

The pace of wheat export sales has improved recently and sales so far this year are now down just 3 percent compared to last season. In the last three seasons, about 55 percent of the season’s total sales were on the books in early January. If that ratio holds this year, exports should be able to reach the recent USDA’s forecast for exports of 1.05 billion bushels.

At this point, the biggest concern about the export outlook is for corn where sales will have to significantly exceed the average pace for the total to reach or exceed the recent forecast.