The U.S. has been the top corn exporter for a long time averaging around 45 percent of the world corn exports since 2000 with a high of 67 percent in 2005 (Figure 1). The one exception since the turn of the century was in 2012; the most severe drought since the 1950s reduced corn production by over 13 percent in the largest producing states. On the other hand, Brazil has increased its corn exports rapidly through the years securing the number two spot. Brazil’s participation in the corn export market is quite remarkable. In 2000, corn exports from Brazil accounted for only 8.2 percent of the world total and reached its lowest volume of exports in 2004 with less than one percent. Brazil bounced back after claiming the top spot in 2012 and challenged the United States. Currently, Brazil exports reached 47 million metric tons compared to 48.9 million metric tons for the United States, accounting for 26.4 and 27.4 percent of total world corn exports, respectively.
The top world corn importers are EU, China, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea accounting for 47.2 percent (Figure 2). Similar to Brazil in the exporting market, China’s rise as a major corn importer is remarkable. China had nearly zero corn imports from 2000 to 2008, then gradually increased its share reaching around five percent in 2011, 2014, and 2019, and finally exploding as a top market for corn in 2020 and 2021. Currently, China occupies the number two spot between the EU and Mexico. U.S. corn exports to China earlier this month were around 70 percent shorter than at the same point in the previous two years. On the other hand, Brazil corn shipments to China last month reached over one million metric tons and is on track to repeat the same amount this month. Although Brazil exports to China seem to be coming at the expense of the United States, China’s continued purchases are a good sign for the world corn market.
Figure 1. Major World Exporters of Corn, MY 2012/13 – MY 2022/23
Figure 2. Major World Importers of Corn, MY 2012/13 – MY 2022/23
Author: Luis A. Ribera
Professor and Director
Center for North American Studies
Texas A&M University