Record Corn Crop Forecast as Ethanol Exports Grow

Cindy Zimmerman

USDADespite flooding of farm land and delayed planting in many areas, USDA is forecasting a record corn crop for this year.

The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate for May represents USDA’s initial assessment of U.S. and world crop supply and demand prospects. The report projects corn production for 2011/12 “at a record 13.5 billion bushels, up 1.1 billion from 2010/11 as a 4.0-million-acre increase in intended plantings and a recovery from last year’s weather-reduced yields boost expected output. The 2011/12 corn yield is projected at 158.7 bushels per acre, 3.0 bushels below the 1990-2010 trend reflecting the slow pace of planting progress through early May.”

The report increases projected corn use for ethanol by 50 million bushels “reflecting slow expected growth in gasoline consumption and continued export demand for ethanol in the coming year.” Ethanol exports set another record in March, as 84 million gallons of product (denatured and undenatured, non-beverage) were shipped to destinations around the world, according to the latest data from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Through the first three months of the year, the U.S. has exported 201 million gallons of ethanol, equivalent to half of the amount exported in all of 2010 and almost twice the amount exported in 2009. Year-to-date exports have been equivalent to about 6% of total U.S. production.

Renewable Fuels Association Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper says that export markets present real demand opportunities that the ethanol industry will continue to explore. “Artificially constrained markets in the U.S. and fears of instability in the policies that impact domestic ethanol production and use are forcing ethanol producers to seek other markets,” he said.

March was also a strong month for exports of the ethanol by-product distillers grains. Shipments totaled 686,098 metric tons, up 11% from February, but down 2% from March 2010 levels.

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