Global Corn Consumption to Outstrip Production for Second Year in a Row

26 Nov 2018 • by Natalie Aster
Global Corn Consumption to Outstrip Production for Second Year in a Row

LONDON – Corn (a.k.a. maize) is one of the first plants domesticated by humans. Today, it is the 3rd largest cultivated crop from pole to pole after wheat and rice. Globally, the harvested area of corn is estimated at some 188 million hectares. Owing to its exceptional geographic adaptability, this annual plant is grown all over the world, however, the cultivation of corn is the highest in countries of the Northern hemisphere.

Although corn is mostly traded as a feed commodity – around 60% of the annual production volume go for animal feed, it is also an essential food crop. Besides, corn is used in a number of industrial applications, for instance, food processing, and biofuel production.

The corn market has undergone considerable changes over the last decades: the surging green revolution together with the robust developments of biotechnologies has resulted in the introduction of genetically modified corn seeds which offer significantly increased average yield.

Worldwide, the corn market is following an upward trend spurred by the mounting need for animal feed, rising consumption in some industrial applications, and escalating demand for food driven by the ever-growing global population. Moreover, the enhancing health awareness in emerging countries has resulted in the shifting dietary preferences towards protein-rich food – this propels the demand for various feed grains, thus, fueling growth in the corn market as well. Meantime, constant price fluctuations and elevating concerns regarding genetically modified corn may restrain growth in the corn market to some extent.

Global Corn Consumption Outpaces Production

During the past few years, the world’s production of corn demonstrated volume fluctuations: in the 2016/17 crop year the global output volume of corn soared to a record height of some 1.07 billion metric tons, however, it experienced a modest decline in 2017/18 and totaled slightly over 1.034 billion metric tons.

Meantime, the global consumption volume of corn registered steady growth over the recent years: in the crop year 2016/17 almost 1.027 billion metric tons of corn were consumed globally, whilst in 2017/18 the overall consumption volume of corn exceeded 1.066 billion metric tons, remarkably outpacing the global production volume.

Global corn production and consumption during 2014/15 – 2016/17 (in million metric tons) Global corn production and consumption during 2014/15 – 2016/17 (in million metric tons)

The next crop year (2018/19), the world’s corn production is anticipated to add appr. 2% YoY and go beyond 1.056 billion metric tons. Meanwhile, spurred by the growing demand for corn in the food and animal feed industries along with the rising use of grain for biofuel production, the world’s corn consumption is predicted to keep on increasing in the near future. In 2018/19, the global corn consumption is slated to exceed production for the second consecutive year.

The US Takes Lead in Global Corn Production & Exports

Top five corn producers together grab a share of almost 74% of the world’s total output volume.

The US tops the list of the global leading corn-producing countries accounting for around a third of the world’s production volume. In 2017/18, the US output of corn exceeded 370 million metric tons. The biggest chunk of the domestic corn production comes from the “Corn Belt” located in the Midwest of the US; corn has been the major crop in this area since the 1850s.

Structure of global corn production by country, 2017/18

Structure of global corn production by country, 2017/18

China is the second dominant producer of corn in the world. The country is responsible for about 20.8% of the global corn production volume. In 2017/18, the Chinese corn industry registered the output of nearly 215.89 million metric tons of corn.

Brazil ranks the third largest corn producer worldwide with a share of almost 8% in the world’s output. In 2017/18, the Brazilian corn production totaled about 82 million metric tons.

Some other prominent corn producing countries include Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Ukraine, and the EU.

In the years ahead, the US is set to stay in the lead of the global corn production. However, the corn production in APAC is projected to experience a rapid upturn in the near future due to the increasing demand for corn in animal feed propelled by robust population growth which results in s swift surge in the demand for food.

In 2017, the value of the world’s corn exports was estimated at some USD 29.6 billion.

The US is the dominant exporter of corn worldwide. In 2017/18, the US corn exports volume totaled around 62.5 million metric tons – the country is responsible for appr. a third of the world’s total corn exports volume. In 2017, the US corn exports value reached about USD 9.6 billion.

Top global exporters of corn, 2017/18 (in million metric tons)

Top global exporters of corn, 2017/18 (in million metric tons)

Brazil and Argentina are also significant corn exporters with shares of nearly 15.6% and 13.1% in global exports, respectively. In 2017/18, Brazil exported over 25.18 million metric tons of corn, whilst Argentina exported some 23.5 million metric tons of corn.

However, the emergence of novel low-cost producers and exporters in the global corn market reduces the share of the US. Fiercening competition from Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine is anticipated to weight down on the US corn exports in the coming years.

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