The U.S.Is No Longer World’s Leading Exporter of Corn

The U.S.Is No Longer World’s Leading Exporter of Corn
Sep 01, 2023

By Meghan McCarty Carino

After more than half a century in which the United States boasted a near-lock on being the world’s leading exporter of corn, the distinction has shifted to Brazil. That’s according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data for the year that ended Thursday.

The reordering of the corn hierarchy follows a similar erosion of U.S. dominance in exports of other staple commodities, like wheat and soybeans, over the last decade or so.

Corn is still America’s biggest crop. It’s also a link to Indigenous traditions, a symbol of the country’s productivity and prosperity, and a source of homegrown pride.

“Actually, the town where I’m at has a Sweet Corn Festival and different events that center around corn,” said Krista Swanson, the lead economist for the National Corn Growers Association and a corn farmer in Illinois.

The past year has thrown U.S. growers a few curveballs, she said. “The crop that we produced in the United States was reduced by drought and was lower than, you know, where it would have been otherwise.”

A strong dollar — boosted by rising interest rates — also made U.S. corn less competitive.

“This is something that has been predicted for many, many years in our forecasts,” said Joseph Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and former chief economist at the USDA.

He noted that more U.S. corn is being bought domestically to make biofuel and feed livestock. Meanwhile, Brazil has been harvesting record amounts of the grain.

“Essentially through intensification,” Glauber said. “That is, they’ll plant a double crop — they’ll follow their soybean crop with a crop of corn.”

Plus, Brazil has found an eager buyer in China, according to Stephen Nicholson, the global sector strategist for grains at Rabobank.

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