WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Ecuador’s wheat imports are expected to reach record levels in 2019-20 as the nation’s economy stabilizes and it becomes more open to trade.

Imports are estimated at 1.275 million tonnes, an increase of 25,000 tonnes or 2% from the previous market year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

“This increase is attributed to sustained

internal demand of wheat for human consumption and animal diets,” FAS said. “This estimate assumes that demand by the country’s animal feed industry will continue to increase.

“There exists potential for a continued larger increase of three percent per year throughout 2020 as long as world prices remain low and global demand for Ecuadorian shrimp continues to rise.”

Ecuador is an insignificant producer of wheat but is expected to grow almost 5,000 tonnes, an increase of 1,000 tonnes from the previous year.

Corn production in 2019-20 is on a downward trend and is now estimated at 1.27 million tonnes. FAS attributes the decrease to a drop in planted area amid increasing yields.

Imports are estimated to increase 300,000 tonnes as domestic prices reach the highest or second highest in the world.

“In order to fulfill internal demand in the animal feed sector, Ecuador will need to return to importing corn or continue to use wheat as a corn substitute,” FAS said.