USGC meeting focuses on emerging markets

by Arvin Donley
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MEA Panel at USGC meeting in Denver
Shultz, Taieb and Cordero speak about the Middle East's demand for U.S. grains products at a panel in Denver.
Photo courtesy of USGC.
 
DENVER, COLORADO, U.S. — In a global trade environment challenged by tariffs and tensions, emerging markets for grains and ethanol provided a bright spot for U.S. farmers, agribusinesses and industry officials attending the U.S. Grains Council’s 58th Annual Board of Delegates meeting in Denver.

The Council’s Middle East and Africa director Ramy Taieb and manager of global trade Alvaro Cordero on July 31 spoke on a panel moderated by the Council’s senior director of global strategies Kurt Shultz, highlighting the Middle East and North Africa as a 10- million-tonne (394-million-bushel) market for U.S. grains in all forms.

They focused on new demand in Saudi Arabia for U.S. sorghum and distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), near-term opportunities developed following years of work by Council staff and members to set the stage with local customers.

“The Middle East and North Africa is a vast area with a lot of complexity,” Taieb said to the group. “However, from the perspective of the U.S. producer, it’s an important area of the world that encompasses 17 countries importing grains products valued at more than $1.8 billion.”

The Council has a regional office in Tunisia and consultants in Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who also covers Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

“Regional imports have been growing over the past five years from 2.5 million tonnes (98 million bushels) in marketing year 2013-14 to 8 million tonnes (315 million bushels) in marketing year 2016-17,” Taieb said. “We are expecting to reach 10 million tonnes (394 million bushels) of grains in all forms to the region this year. The U.S. Grains Council has focused on being flexible and responsive to the shifting market opportunities as they arise in the region.”

In addition to other sales in the region, speakers shared that U.S. corn sales to Saudi Arabia totaled $383 million in the 2016-17 marketing year, a 150% growth over the previous marketing year.

The July 31 general sessions also featured a presentation on the economic conditions facing the United States and the farm economy by Will Secor, an economist in the knowledge exchange division at CoBank, a national cooperative bank serving industries across rural America. Secor said that despite developing challenges on the global trade stage, the long-term outlook for U.S. grains demand is positive.

Mike Dwyer, chief economist at USGC, led off the afternoon’s round of speakers, updating the farmers and other delegates in attendance on the industry’s ethanol market development efforts. The United States is the world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter of fuel ethanol and is the most cost-competitive ethanol supplier due to large-scale production, industry innovation and access to competitively-priced feedstock.

“No other grain-in-all-forms category comes close as a driver of growing corn demand,” Dwyer told the delegates about ethanol exports. “U.S. exports of grains in all forms could rise to a record 138 million tonnes by 2022 if we meet our ambitious goals.”

Dwyer was followed by Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, and James Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, who provided insights from their sectors, both of which are working to grow new overseas demand while defending established markets in a complicated trade environment.

According to a recent USGC and National Corn Growers Association study, grain-in-all-forms exports accounted for $55.5 billion in economic output in 2015, the most recent year with full data available, with more than 262,000 U.S. jobs connected to these sales.
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