U.S. corn export sales outpace year ago as Brazil woes fuel demand

Source: BY KARL PLUME, Reuters • Posted: Monday, June 13, 2016

A corn field is seen in DeWitt, Iowa in this July 12, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/Files

Export sales of U.S. corn to be shipped ahead of the fall harvest have topped last year’s pace for the first time this season, government data on Thursday showed, fueled by competitive prices and a lack of available grain from Argentina and drought-hit Brazil.

Buyers from at least 31 different countries booked U.S. corn shipments last week, the most diverse pool of buyers since a record 32 unique destinations made purchases in the week ended Oct. 11, 2007, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

U.S. suppliers are welcoming the export revival. Earlier this season, abundant supplies of cheap South American corn and a strong dollar had global buyers shunning shipments from the United States, the world’s top exporter.

But Brazilian supplies have now thinned dramatically and domestic prices have surged to record highs, forcing troubled poultry and pork producers there to turn to alternatives like feed wheat.

“Things have definitely picked up,” said Darin Friedrichs, analyst with AgTraderTalk.com.

“Brazil way overexported this year and even as they harvest, they need to refill their domestic supply first so they’re going to be hesitant to export. Argentina can do some, but we’re basically the only option for corn right now,” he said.

Old-crop U.S. corn export sales topped 1 million tonnes for a fifth straight week last week, bringing total sales so far in the 2015-16 season to nearly 44.7 million tonnes, 1.7 percent ahead of the same point last year. Sales had lagged the year-ago pace by 20 percent as recently as March.

The surge in demand has set the stage for an upward revision to the USDA’s current-season export forecast, possibly as soon as Friday morning when the agency is scheduled to update its monthly supply-demand reports.

In May, the USDA forecast 2015-16 corn exports at 43.82 million tonnes, down 7.5 percent from the prior year.

(Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Adler)