The U.S. Grains Council’s 2011 Japan Corn Outlook Conference brought together an “A-list” of customers from Japan’s feed, starch, and snack companies for the latest updates on U.S. corn quality, availability, planting and production.

“Customers told us this conference is their major source of information on U.S. corn,” reported Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan.

While reviewing China’s role in international corn markets, Rick Fruth, USGC past chairman and Ohio corn farmer, discussed the outlook for U.S. corn supplies to the nearly 250 attendees.

“The U.S. market has one clear advantage over all others,” Fruth said. “We never close. U.S. corn exports flow to the world every day of the year.”‚Ä®Fruth said he expects U.S. farmers to increase corn acres this year, predicting that plantings of 91 million acres with normal weather would increase the U.S. crop by 34.5 million metric tons (1.4 billion bushels).

Also on the conference program were Ross Korves, an economic policy expert with ProExporter Network who discussed world corn supply and demand; Steve Vanzant from the Ohio Corn Marketing Board who provided a grower perspective on the size and quality of the 2010 U.S. crop; and Jorge Morales from Frito-Lay who discussed corn dry milling and food products.

This conference produces in-depth exchanges with Japanese corn importers and end-users that maintain a U.S. market share at or above 90 percent of Japanese imports, according to Hamamoto. It is also a venue to discuss related issues like biotechnology and identity preservation.

Fruth, Vanzant and USGC staff also made personal visits to key Japanese officials and customers, including Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Japan Starch & Sweeteners Association, the Japan Corn Grits Association, and the Japan Snack & Cereal Food Association.

“This conference is the ‘central pillar’ in Council efforts to keep good faith with our largest customer,” said Hamamoto. “(Attendees) expressed their expectation to the Council to keep them updated through quality reports and corn missions.”