Export potential for U.S. corn will increase significantly for the rest of the decade, according to a U.S. Grains Council spokesman, but the customer base may include some new buyers at the top of the list.

Kenneth Hobbie, Grains Council President and CEO, says worldwide demand for corn by 2008 and 2009 will increase by 10 million metric tons. U.S. exports could rise by 13.6 million metric tons with the rest of the world's exporters declining by 3.5 million metric tons.

“We see continued strong export demand for U.S. corn,” Hobbie said in San Antonio during the Commodity Classic, a conference and trade show sponsored by the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers' Association.

For the 2000-2001 marketing year, U.S. corn producers will account for 71 percent of the export market. Japan remains our best customer, buying 622.8 million bushels last year. “We have to take care of biotechnology issues to keep Japanese buyers happy,” Hobbie says.

Taiwan bought 202.8 million bushels of U.S. corn last year; almost 100 percent of Taiwan's corn imports come from the United States.

Mexico is our third largest corn importer at 183.9 million bushels last year. ‘They have moved up from the sixth or seventh spot since NAFTA,” Hobbie says.

Egypt bought 156.7 million bushels of U.S. corn while Korea bought 124.4, Columbia 70.5 and Venezuela 42.9. China is a strong competitor for the Korean business, Hobbie says. “The Chinese can ship to Korea in a day, compared to 30 days from the United States.”

Customers of the future, however, will include China at the top of the list as they fulfill their World Trade organization commitments.

“Japan, Korea and Mexico also will remain high on the list,” Hobbie says. “And we may see new opportunities with Saudi Arabia because of increased livestock and poultry production.”

Other African nations also will be U.S. customers, he says, partly because of the Food Aid program.

“Taiwan and Egypt will stay on the list and Malaysia could be another potential customer.”

Hobbie says India, which will soon outpace China in population, will be in the corn market as well, especially as the large middle-class demands improved diets.