Already dominant in world trade in coarse grains, the U.S. share of world corn trade is expected to grow to nearly 73 percent by the end of the decade, according to the USDA's Baseline Projections to 2014.

China's share of world exports will decline, according to the report by the Interagency Agricultural Projections Committee, but the U.S. corn sector will face increased competition from non-European Union Eastern European nations and Argentina, which are expected to increase their shares of the global corn market.

Argentina, with a small domestic market, remains the world's second largest corn exporter. As its economy expands, investments and planted area will gradually return to corn production, with exports projected to rise from 11 million tons currently to 15 million by the decade's end.

China's corn exports will decline, the report says, reflecting stronger domestic demand from its rapidly-expanding livestock sector.

China is projected to become a net corn importer in 2007/08 as demand for feed for a burgeoning livestock sector overtakes its internal supplies. However, it is expected to continue exporting corn through the decade, but in declining amounts due to regional supply/demand differences. Northern China runs a corn surplus, while Southern China is corn-deficit.

China experienced a large buildup of corn stocks in the mid to late 1990s, the result of favorable weather and local self-sufficiency policies that boosted grain production to record levels. But in the last half-decade, the report notes, China's corn consumption has exceeded production and stocks have declined sharply.

“Because a continued drop in stocks is unsustainable, China is projected to increase imports and reduce exports, and to become a net corn importer as livestock production and feed demand continue to increase in response to income growth and rising meat demand.”

Exports from non-EU Eastern European countries will grow by more than 2 million tons by the end of the decade. Favorable resource endowments, increasing economic openness, and greater investment in their agricultural sectors will foster the projected gains in production and trade.

Brazil continues to export about 2.4 million tons of corn in response to niche market demand for non-genetically modified grain, but strong growth in domestic demand from the livestock sector prevents its corn exports from increasing.

Growth in coarse grains trade will be strongly linked to expansion of livestock activities in regions unable to meet their own forage/feed needs, particularly North Africa, the Middle East, and East/Southeast Asia, the report said.

Gradual elimination of Mexico's over-quota tariffs on corn imports is expected to shift some of its grain imports from sorghum to corn. Mexico's imports of corn are projected to rise from 6.3 million tons in 2004 to more than 15 million tons in 2014. Imports will be stimulated by rapidly-rising poultry production and a steady reduction in the country's over-quota tariffs on corn imports from the U.S., which is to zero out by Jan. 1, 2008.

World coarse grain trade is expected to grow by about 29 million tons during the decade. About two-thirds of global supply is used as animal feed, although industrial uses such as starch, ethanol, and malt production are increasing. Food use of coarse grains, concentrated in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, has generally declined as consumers shift consumption toward wheat, rice, and other foods as their incomes rise.

e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com