WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Ukraine exported just over 2 million tonnes of grain in December, of which about 1.6 million tonnes (63 million bushels) was corn, according to U.S. Grains Council (USGC) sources. The leading corn importers were Egypt, 252,000 tonnes; Spain, 350,000 tonnes; and Iran, 160,000 tonnes. Egypt, Tunisia and Spain took most of Ukraine’s wheat shipments.

Ukraine’s winter crops are reported to be in poor condition due to the dry fall and winter, which could mean a smaller 2012 harvest despite an increase in planted acres. If that happens and Ukraine sees a return of moisture, it could mean even larger plantings of corn this spring, according to Cary Sifferath, USGC regional director.

Kazakhstan reportedly increased its area planted to grains by one-third last year and had a very good crop, increasing wheat output by 4 million tonnes. Although Kazakhstan’s lack of access to export markets poses a challenge, the country will only consume 7 million tonnes of its 21 million tonnes of grain production, USGC said. Exports typically go to Russia, by train to Black Sea ports, or across the Caspian Sea to Turkey, but Russian and Ukrainian ports are already overcrowded with their own shipments.

Some Kazakh officials say it will take a year or two to work off the supply, and Kazakh farmers are being told to grow whatever they like as long as it is not wheat.

South Africa is now importing some corn as a result of over-extending its export commitments for both yellow and white corn. Domestic prices have risen higher than competing world prices, and yellow corn shipments, outside of neighboring Sub-Saharan countries, have stopped.

South Africa continues to ship white corn to Mexico, however, because of contract obligations established last summer. Mexico has received just less than 1 million tonnes of white corn (39 million bushels) in South Africa’s current crop year.