Corn 2020 Export Highlights

Top 10 Export Markets for U.S. Corn

(values in million USD)
Commodity  2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2019-2020 % Change 2016-2020 Average
Mexico 2,550 2,646 3,061 2,730 2,693 -1% 2,736
Japan 2,091 2,163 2,813 2,001 1,846 -8% 2,183
China 40 142 50 56 1,205 2072% 299
Colombia 771 785 927 683 876 28% 808
South Korea 865 705 1,356 359 548 53% 766
Canada 147 131 309 349 272 -22% 241
Guatemala 174 145 196 177 219 23% 182
Taiwan 460 395 593 228 179 -22% 371
Costa Rica 115 138 143 145 151 4% 138
Saudi Arabia 343 266 297 110 151 37% 233
All Others 2,324 1,615 2,718 814 1,072 32% 1709
Total Exported 9,879 9,131 12,462 7,651 9,210 20% 9,667

Source: U.S. Census Bureau Trade Data - BICO HS-10

Highlights

U.S. corn exports were up $1.6 billion (20 percent) from a year ago to $9.2 billion in 2020. Strong feed demand in China contributed to this sharp increase, as did China’s implementation of the Phase One Agreement. Exports to China totaled $1.2 billion, the largest since 2012. China became the third largest destination for U.S. corn in 2020 after Mexico and Japan. The top three markets accounted for 62 percent of total U.S. corn exports. The sum total of U.S. corn exports to Colombia, South Korea, and Guatemala, three U.S. free trade partners, was up $424 million over 2019.

Drivers

  • Exports to China were strong during the latter half of 2020 and ultimately exceeded the Phase One quota for 2020, as the recovery in China’s swine sector from the outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) fueled demand for competitively priced feedstuffs.
  • U.S. prices were competitive in global markets supported by abundant exportable supplies and weak domestic demand in the fuel ethanol sector amidst COVID-19.
  • The depreciation of the U.S. dollar against a basket of currencies also boosted the competitiveness of U.S. corn overseas.

Global Corn Exports

Stacked bar graph showing global corn exports in 2020.

Looking Ahead

U.S. corn is expected to remain competitive, with ample supplies and reduced competition from Ukraine, Argentina, and Brazil. Ukraine’s exports are forecast to be smaller (-17 percent) than the previous year due to a smaller crop. Corn prices in the South American countries remain elevated, reflecting tight stocks and strong domestic feed demand for animal production and meat exports. Moreover, Brazil’s corn is expected to come onto the market later than usual due to slow planting in the Center-West impacted by delays in the soybean harvest.

U.S. corn exports to China are expected to be stronger. At the end of January 2021, sales to China for delivery in 2021 stood at a record 11.6 million tons. China’s demand for competitively priced feedstuff should remain strong as its swine sector continues to rebound from ASF. High corn prices in China, which were nearly double those of U.S. corn at the end of January, are also expected to stimulate demand for imports.

With reduced competition, U.S. corn is expected to expand its market share in traditional markets in Asia and the Western Hemisphere, while rebuilding market share to countries in North Africa. In fact, U.S. sales and shipments to North African countries are off to a good start. At the end of January 2021, they totaled 750,000 tons compared to none a year ago.

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