WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Tunisia, a major producer and exporter of olive oil, is on track to become the largest international export market for U.S. corn oil for back-to-back years, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said on June 7. Traditionally Turkey and Saudi Arabia are largest export markets for U.S. corn oil, but due to biotechnology constraints in Turkey, Tunisia quickly stepped in to the number one slot in 2011. Note that the accompanying chart combines both crude corn oil and refined corn oil exports.
A large portion of the U.S. corn oil exports to Tunisia are refined in country and then sold into Libya, This is also common for refined corn oil brought into Tunisia to then be trucked into Libya. Sunflower oil (Ukrainian) is usually the cheapest vegetable oil option on the grocery shelves in Tunisia, but Libya has grown to favor corn oil over other vegetable oils over the years, giving U.S. corn oil a qualitative advantage in this market.
According to the USGC, roughly 70% of the total corn oil exported to Tunisia, eventually ends up in Libya. There are also some direct sales to Libya and Egypt has been a growing market for U.S. corn oil the last few years. The chart illustrates that Tunisia is off to a good start in just the first two months of data for 2012.