Corn 2021 Export Highlights

Top 10 Export Markets for U.S. Corn

(values in million USD)
Country 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2020-2021 % Change 2017-2021 Average
China 142 50 55 1,224 5,096 316% 1,313
Mexico 2,645 3,061 2,736 2,680 4,717 76% 3,168
Japan 2,163 2,813 2,011 1,844 3,187 73% 2,404
Colombia 785 927 682 879 1,100 25% 875
Korea, South 705 1,356 359 548 858 57% 765
Canada 131 309 349 272 662 143% 344
Taiwan 395 603 232 178 435 144% 368
Guatemala 145 196 177 218 342 57% 216
Costa Rica 138 143 145 151 208 38% 157
Honduras 85 107 123 130 205 58% 130
All Others 1,796 2,908 801 1,089 1,912 76% 1,701
Total Exported 9,131 12,472 7,671 9,213 18,721 103% 11,441

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


U.S. corn exports set a record in 2021 at $18.7 billion. The sharp increase was attributed to China’s increased demand for imported corn and reduced competition from Brazil and Ukraine in other markets. Exports to China totaled $5.1 billion, sharply up from last year’s record. China became the largest destination for U.S. corn. The top three destinations accounted for 69 percent of total U.S. corn exports. Globally, despite smaller available supplies, Ukraine’s exports to China were larger, resulting in many countries turning to U.S. corn. For Brazil, the impact of drought on the second corn crop (known as the “safrinha”) sharply reduced available supplies for export.


  • U.S. corn was competitive in global markets supported by abundant supplies and weak domestic demand for fuel ethanol amid COVID-19.
  • Exports to China were strong throughout 2021. The recovery in China’s swine sector from ASF favored the use of corn in feed rations and drove China’s domestic corn prices higher. This run-up in China’s domestic corn prices created favorable conditions for increased imports of competitively priced U.S. corn.
  • With tight exportable supplies in Ukraine and Brazil, many countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia turned to competitively priced U.S. corn.

Global Corn Exports

Stacked bar graph showing global corn exports in 2021.  The top three exporters are the U.S., Argentina, and Ukraine.

Looking Ahead

U.S. corn is expected to decline from the 2021 level due to greater competition from Ukraine, Argentina, and Brazil. These countries are currently forecast to have abundant exportable supplies. In the first months of 2022, U.S. corn sales and shipments have been slow to many destinations. Furthermore, prices for U.S. corn are currently higher than Ukrainian and Argentine corn, driven by U.S. domestic demand for fuel ethanol.

U.S. corn exports to China are expected to remain strong. At the end of January 2022, total commitments (sales + shipments) to China stood at a record 12.4 million tons. Although declining from its peak, China’s domestic corn prices remain substantially higher than world levels. High transportation costs from China’s grain-surplus regions in the north to grain-deficit areas in the south and COVID restrictions are expected to stimulate demand for imports.

U.S. corn exports to Canada are also expected to be strong. At the end of January 2022, total commitments stood at 3.3 million tons, compared to 491,400 tons during the same period in 2021. With tight feed grain supplies in the Prairies impacted by summer drought, feed users have turned to a substitute, mainly corn. Transportation routes and economics favor U.S. corn over Canada’s domestic corn.

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