Japan may boost US corn imports on competitive pricing

Japan had been seeking cheaper alternatives from Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine

Japan may increase its imports of U.S. corn as a bear market makes prices more competitive, according to industry officials. Purchases for the three months through September may jump 41 percent to 2.6 million metric tons from the May–June quarter, said Nobuyuki Chino, president of Continental Rice Corp. 

Purchases from the U.S. slumped 25 percent to 1.85 million metric tons for shipment this quarter, representing 50 percent of Japan’s total imports, said Chino. Higher prices last quarter, coupled with the yen’s 8.6 percent drop against the dollar, boosted costs for feed mills, leading them to seek cheaper alternatives from Brazil, Argentina and Ukraine. 

Corn dropped the most in 24 years and entered a bear market on April 1 as bigger-than-expected U.S. stockpiles and increased planting suggest ample supplies, according to the industry. Farmers will plant 97.282 million acres in 2013, the most since 1936, after 2012’s drought cut U.S. output by 13 percent and boosted futures to a record, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture on March 28. Japan needs 2.7 million metric tons of corn next quarter for livestock feed and 1 million metric tons for food, sweeteners and other purposes, said Chino. Buyers may source about 70 percent of the total from the U.S.