Brazilian corn growers have surpassed the United States as the top exporter of corn in the world, accounting for approximately 32% of global corn exports in the 2023 agricultural year, according to a report by Bloomberg. Data from the US Department of Agriculture revealed that the US only accounted for 23% of global corn exports in the agricultural year that ended on August 31, placing it well behind Brazil.
This shift in leadership is attributed to several factors, including rising labor and logistical costs in the US, a shortage of available farmland, the negative impact of the ongoing trade war with China, and a strong US dollar. These challenges have affected the competitiveness of US corn growers, allowing Brazil to take the lead.
Furthermore, Brazil is expected to maintain its position as the top exporter of corn in the 2024 harvest year. In recent history, the US briefly lost its top spot in 2013 due to a devastating drought, but otherwise has consistently been the leading exporter. However, this recent development suggests a potential shift in the global corn trade dynamics.
This is not the first time that American agricultural producers have lost their top position in crop exports. In 2013, Brazil surpassed the US as the leading exporter of soybeans. Additionally, the European Union and Russia have challenged the US’ wheat dominance in recent years.
One of the key factors contributing to Brazil’s success is its favorable climate and weak local currency. These conditions have allowed Brazilian corn growers to produce two harvests per year, providing them with a competitive advantage over their US counterparts. Additionally, Brazil has invested in upgrading its ports and infrastructure, addressing previous logistical gaps and further enhancing its export capabilities.
In contrast, the US has been focusing on utilizing domestically grown corn for ethanol production, specifically for use as a transportation fuel additive. Currently, around 40% of corn grown in the US is used for ethanol production. This domestic demand, coupled with the availability of grain elevators to store surpluses, has resulted in US corn sitting in storage for extended periods, waiting for better prices.
While the US still maintains a significant presence in global soybean exports, accounting for nearly one-third of the market share, it ranks as the fifth-largest wheat exporter with a single-digit share worldwide.
The shift in corn exports highlights the evolving dynamics of the global agricultural trade landscape. Brazil’s rise as the leading exporter signifies its growing influence and competitiveness in the market, while the US faces challenges that impact its ability to maintain its traditional dominance.
Overall, the changing dynamics in crop exports emphasize the importance of factors such as production costs, trade policies, currency valuations, and infrastructure investments, which can significantly impact a country’s position in the global agricultural trade market.