Focus on the United States

by Chris Lyddon
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Map of the United States
The United States is the world’s biggest grain producer and plays a central role in the global grain markets. It is the biggest exporter and the biggest producer of ethanol by far and notable for the enthusiastic adoption of genetically engineered crops.

According to the International Grains Council (IGC), total projected U.S. grain production in 2017-18 will be 421 million tonnes, down from 465.9 million in 2016-17. The figure is dominated by the country’s massive maize production, set to reach 357.7 million tonnes, down from 384.8 million the year before. Wheat production in 2017-18 is put at 49.6 million tonnes, down from 62.9 million. The 2017-18 barley crop is forecast at 3.5 million tonnes, down from 4.3 million. Sorghum production in 2017-18 is put at 8.5 million tonnes, down from 12.2 million the year before.

Output of oats is set to rise to 1 million tonnes from 900,000 in 2016-17, while the rye crop is put at an unchanged 300,000 tonnes.

The United States is the world’s largest grain exporter by a wide margin. In 2017-18 it is set to export a total of 79.5 million tonnes of grain, down from 92.3 million the year before, according to the IGC. It will import 6.5 million tonnes, up from 5.5 million the year before. Those exports include 26.1 million tonnes of wheat in 2017-18, down from 27.6 million; 48.2 million tonnes of maize, down from 57.9 million; and an unchanged 200,000 tonnes of barley. Imports include 3 million tonnes of wheat, up from 2.5 million the year before, and 1.3 million tonnes of maize, up from 1 million.

The United States is also a major producer and exporter of soybeans. In 2017-18 its crop is forecast at 115.5 million tonnes, down from 117.2 million the year before, with 2017-18 exports put at 58 million tonnes, up from 55.3 million the year before. Although the United States is the world’s biggest soybean producer, it has been pushed into second place as an exporter in recent years by Brazil. U.S. production of rapeseed is put at 1.5 million tonnes in 2017-18, compared with 1.4 million the year before. Rapeseed exports were an unchanged 100,000 tonnes.

The IGC explained how the weather contributed to U.S. production declines.

“A severe snowstorm in late-April may have harmed HRW crops in parts of Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska,” it said. “Problems were likely accentuated by freezing temperatures and high winds, but the extent of damage is unclear. Widespread flooding was a concern for SRW in the southern Midwest. With higher-than-normal abandonment anticipated, winter wheat harvested area is projected to drop by 15% year on year, to 10.3 million hectares. Drier and warmer weather allowed spring fieldwork to accelerate in the northern Plains, with planting almost finished by late May, slightly ahead of the five-year average. Mainly reflecting a shift into soybeans, most notably in North Dakota, plantings are forecast to be the lowest since the early 1970s.”

Maize production was also affected by weather.

“Heavy rains early in the month brought flooding to parts of the southern and eastern Corn Belt, where some replanting was necesssary,” the IGC said. “Those producers worst affected may instead opt for a crop insurance payment or switch to alternatives, such as soybeans.”