WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Panama Canal Authority plan to share studies and market-related information so both organizations can project the future demand of U.S. grain exports and grain shipments through the Panama Canal.

The groups signed an agreement during the USGC’s 9th International Marketing Conference and 52 Annual Membership Meeting Feb. 13-15 in Panama.

Through this agreement, both organizations may elect to:

  • Undertake joint marketing efforts to generate awareness of the benefits of the Canal expansion;
  • Share data that may be helpful in forecasting future trade flows, development marketing strategies and obtaining additional knowledge about the shipping market;
  • Exchange information contained in studies performed by them or by their consultants or representatives; and
  • Share information regarding improvements and/or modernization efforts being undertaken.

It is intended that this relationship will last for five years, renewable upon mutual agreement.

During the meeting, attendees got a firsthand look at the construction of the Panama Canal expansion.

More than 325 participants loaded several busses and traveled to the Miraflores Visitor Center and the construction site of the new locks, located directly opposite of the Miraflores locks. The Miraflores Visitor Center is located at the Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side of the Canal.

Here, participants observed transiting vessels from two observation platforms which overlook the locks. They toured the museum that documents the history of the construction of the Canal and the important role that it plays in world commerce. The visitor center is the construction site for the third set of locks which will be operational in 2014 on the 100-year anniversary of the Canal’s inauguration. 

Also during the event, U.S. Grains Council Chairman Wendell Shauman outlined the global vision for the USGC. Shauman emphasized that 95% of the world’s population now lives outside the U.S. and that the global middle class is driving food demand. Noting that corn last summer topped $10 a bushel in China, Shauman celebrated the historic opportunity presented to U.S. producers by this new global demand — but at the same time, he acknowledged that producers around the world perceive the same opportunity and are ramping up production to compete for market share.

Shauman outlined the USGC’s global vision for competing in a dynamic new market environment. The council late last year adopted a new strategic plan designed to support more aggressive engagement in trade policy issues. The council has also embraced a new strategic communications initiative and is repositioning its global assets to stay ahead of emerging markets around the world. With 25% to 30% of U.S. farm receipts being generated by imports, and with China emerging as the top international customer for U.S. agriculture, Shauman pledged that the council would continue to work aggressively to maintain U.S. leadership in global exports of feed grains.

Shauman’s focus was matched by the nearly 300 attendees — an all-time attendance record — at the 2012 IMC.