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Logistical Breakthroughs Boost Brazil Corn Export Competitiveness, While China GMO Trials Show “Outstanding” Results

Reuters writer Ana Mano reported yesterday that, “Brazil is set to overtake the U.S. this year as the world’s top corn exporter, reflecting both a bumper harvest and logistical breakthroughs such as the consolidation of northern export routes, which are boosting the competitiveness of the South American grains powerhouse.

Corn exports through Brazil’s northern ports, which use the waterways of the Amazon River basin to ship grains globally, are on track to beat volumes via the most traditional port of Santos for a third consecutive year, according to a Reuters analysis of grain shipping data.

“Brazil clears bottlenecks to oust US as top corn exporter,” by Ana Mano. Reuters News (August 24, 2023).

“The shift underscores how Brazil, which churns out three corn crops per year and still has huge expanses of under-used farm land, is finally overcoming some of the infrastructure bottlenecks that have long made it hard to get its bountiful harvests to global markets.

That and a new supply deal with China announced last year suggest Brazil may be opening a longer era of supremacy over U.S. corn exports, unlike the last time the Brazilians briefly grabbed the global corn crown during North America’s drought-hit 2012/13 season.

Mano explained that, “Major new investments in Brazil have begun to ease several chokepoints and bring down logistics costs sharply, helping to undercut U.S. farmers.”

“Brazil clears bottlenecks to oust US as top corn exporter,” by Ana Mano. Reuters News (August 24, 2023).

Mano also pointed out that, “Brazil’s farm industry, however, is not past all of its logistical woes. On-farm storage capacity still pales next to rival grain powers like Canada, the U.S. and Argentina.”

“Brazil’s surging export infrastructure shows little sign of letting up, even though lower prices may discourage farmers from expanding plantings as rapidly,” the Reuters article said.

Also yesterday, Reuters writer Dominique Patton reported that, “China’s farm ministry on Thursday said large trials of genetically modified corn and soybeans showed ‘outstanding‘ results and that application of the technology was completely safe.

“China has not yet approved commercial planting of GMO corn and soybeans, but has been studying the crops for years, and this year significantly expanded the acreage of its pilot programme.

“The trials in 20 counties in the provinces of Yunnan, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Jilin, and Sichuan showed ‘outstanding’ insect resistance and herbicide resistance, said the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.”

Meanwhile, Reuters News reported today that, “Canada said on Friday it will participate as a third party in the dispute settlement proceedings between the U.S. and Mexico regarding genetically modified (GM) corn in imported tortillas and dough, citing concerns about Mexico’s stance on the matter.”

The Reuters article indicated that, “Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said in a statement that the country ‘shares the concerns’ of the U.S. that Mexico is not compliant ‘with the science and risk analysis obligations’ under USMCA’s sanitary and phytosanitary measures chapter.”

Elsewhere, Dow Jones writer Kirk Maltais reported yesterday that, “Export sales of U.S. soybeans for the week ended Aug. 17 beat the high-end of expectations by surveyed analysts.

The Department of Agriculture reported in its weekly export sales rundown that 1.58 million metric tons of soybeans were sold in the 2022/23 and 2023/24 marketing years, beating the range of 800,000 tons to 1.3 million tons forecast by analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal this week.

Corn and wheat sales fell within analyst expectations, totaling 650,800 tons and 406,000 tons, respectively, across both marketing years. For corn, a net reduction of 22,700 tons for the 2022/23 year was logged, driven by cancellations by Colombia, El Salvador and other unknown destinations.”

And Bloomberg writers Tarso Veloso Ribeiro, Millie Munshi, and Michael Hirtzer reported yesterday that, “Sagging ears just short of maturity, cobs half bare of kernels as if nibbled, earth so dry that deep cracks criss-cross the fields: The US corn harvest is in trouble.

“The signs were already there in South Dakota. Scouts surveying fields there this week found what farmers call tip back, when corn kernels aren’t filled all the way to the top of the cob as a result of dryness and poor pollination. It leaves them looking half eaten.

“As participants on the crop tour moved deeper into the growing belt, things got worse. In Ohio, scouts found immature ears of grain, indicating that the crop still has weeks left in the growing season. That leaves plants vulnerable to this week’s heat wave.”

The Bloomberg writers noted that, “Temperatures topping 100F (38C) are descending on the Midwest. Conditions are changing so fast that even some results from the tour — seen as more timely and less conservative than government estimates — are already out of date.”

“With food security already under threat from Europe to Asia, the world has been counting on a big corn harvest to help keep food inflation at bay. A disappointing US harvest could have ripple effects on markets across the globe,” the Bloomberg article said, adding that: “Much will come down to Iowa, the No. 1 US corn grower and where sixth-generation farmer Ben Riensche is for the first-time ever watching his crop go ‘backwards’ because of the heat.”

“Early results from the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour are raising concerns that the crop will fall short of the US Department of Agriculture’s production outlook. Data collected in the first three days of the tour — which don’t fully capture real-time heat damages — show yields are trailing USDA estimates in Ohio, Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois. Only South Dakota looked better-than-forecast,” the Bloomberg article said.

Reuters writers Karl Plume and Karen Braun reported yesterday that, “Iowa’s corn yield prospects are lower than a year ago and below the three-year average, but soybean pod counts are higher than average, scouts on an annual tour of top U.S. production states found on Thursday.

“Corn yields in the top U.S. producing state were projected at 182.80 bushels per acre (bpa), the Pro Farmer Crop Tour said, slightly below the 2022 crop tour average of 183.81 bpa and the three-year crop tour average of 184.13 bpa.”

Earlier this week, Reuters writer Karl Plume reported that, “Illinois soybean pod counts and corn yield prospects are above last year and the three-year average, scouts on an annual Midwest crop tour found on Wednesday.

“The four-day crop tour, which does not project soybean yields, estimated the amount of soybean pods in a 3-by-3-foot square in Illinois, the top soybean producing state, at an average of 1,270.61, up from last year’s average of 1,249.70 pods and the three-year average of 1,258.96 pods.

Illinois corn yields were projected at 193.72 bushels per acre (bpa), above the 2022 crop tour average of 190.71 bpa and the three-year crop tour average of 192.14 bpa.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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