Trade policy discussions, agreements and mandates have recently come about that could expand export opportunities for U.S. feed grains and co-products to Southeast Asia, according to Ken Hobbie, U.S. Grains Council president and CEO. Tuesday, June 24, 2008, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer signed a memorandum of agreement with Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap to promote agricultural trade and investment between the two countries.

"Continuing to maintain and strengthen the trade relationship between the United States and the Philippines is critical and we applaud USDA for making this key market a priority," Hobbie said. "The Philippines is a growing market for feed grains and co-products produced by U.S. farmers," noting that the demand for distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS) is growing. According to USDA statistics, the Philippines imported 79,153 metric tons of DDGS in 2007 compared to 958 tons just three years ago.

Free trade talks between the United States and Thailand are reportedly planned to resume in the coming months.

"A free trade agreement with Thailand would be paramount for expanding U.S. export opportunities in Southeast Asia," said Hobbie. "The Council has and always will support actions taken to liberalize free and open trade."

Thailand, like the Philippines, is another market that has seen the benefits of including DDGS in livestock rations. In 2007, Thailand imported 59,346 tons of DDGS compared to only 10 tons three years prior, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. Indonesia's government recently made comments that expanding their domestic livestock sector will be a key priority throughout the next five years opening export opportunities for U.S. feed grains. The government's plan is to help set up 1,000 cattle-breeding ventures that may cost 1.1 million each. Demand for beef, chicken meat and other protein sources are growing as Southeast Asia's largest economy expands. Most of the protein is imported from Australia and New Zealand, but with this new initiative to expand the domestic livestock sector, feed grains and co-products will be in high demand.

"With the economy expanding, incomes are improving resulting in a greater percentage of Indonesia's population being able to afford meat, milk and eggs," said Hobbie. Indonesia's reported purchases for U.S. DDGS for 2007 was 68,918 tons compared to 11,516 tons in 2004. The country also purchased more than 13,000 tons of U.S. corn. "The Council will continue to be actively engaged in the region by providing technical support, educational seminars and market building initiatives."