April 13, 2011

White corn buyers from Mexico tour Nebraska

Surely, those tortilla chip lovers out there know that Nebraska is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for production of white corn? Nebraska’s production of white corn is around 27 million bushels, with the five-year average of planted acres being 145,127 acres.

The U.S. Grains Council brought up a trade team from Mexcio and the Nebraska Corn Board hosted them to tour two cooperatives and a private grain company, all of which supply white corn to buyers in different U.S. markets by contracting white corn production with Nebraskan farmers. The trade team guests came to Nebraska to explore white corn production and contracting opportunities. The trade team participants were from Almer and its parent company, MINSA, whose goal is to provide the most competitive ingredients for snack foods and tortillas. They have two plants in the U.S. in Iowa and Texas, along with several other plants in Mexico.

Mexico also grows a lot of its own white corn. What is most interesting for Mexico is that they have two cycles of harvest; defined by an Autumn-Winter season and a Spring-Summer season. Unfortunately, Mexico had a rare freeze earlier this year that killed a lot of corn during mid-season growth. Much was replanted, but still left corn stocks short. Thus, the purpose for the trip to the U.S. was to gain a long-term relationship with white corn growers and suppliers to have resources for the future. South Africa is another large white corn market for Mexican buyers, and even though it is cheaper to buy, the shipment and other fees cause it to cost about the same as U.S. corn.

The trade team first met with employees of the Aurora Cooperative in Aurora, Nebraska. The discussion revolved around white and yellow corn production in the area and the use of irrigation.

“We can expect corn yields to be consistent or growing year in and year out because of irrigation,” said Todd Gerdes, specialty grains and grain origination manager of the Aurora Cooperative. His coworker, Mark Jorgensen, Aurora Cooperative’s Sedan location merchandiser, stated the importance of genetically modified (GM) corn. In Nebraska, 91% of the corn (both white and yellow) is GM corn.

“GM corn has a natural resistance and efficiency to make it a better quality,” said Jorgensen.

The trade team then traveled to O’Malley Grain, Inc., now a part of The Andersons, Inc. in Fairmont, Nebraska. This elevator has a program for supplying food-grade corn directly to the buyer.

“We’re going to eat it [white corn] so it needs to be the best quality,” said Dale Byrkit, O’Malley Grain Fairmont location general manager. Byrkit also agreed to the positive use of irrigation, “We have a consistent quality of food-grade corn because of irrigation in Nebraska.”

Dorchester was the next stop for the trade team, meeting with Dale Hayek, elevator manager of Farmer’s Cooperative. Hayek concurred to previous discussion on use of GM white corn and increasing yields.

“Historically, there has been a yield drag in white corn,” said Hayek, “But this last year, we had higher test weights and increased yields.” Hayek also communicated to the team some concern over lost acres to seed corn in the area.

Lastly, the trade team stopped at Nebraska Corn Board chairman and U.S. Grains Council at-large director, Alan Tiemann’s farm in Seward. Alan was able to show the team a Nebraska corn production map, talk about irrigated and non-irrigated acres, and show his planting and harvesting machinery.

See more pictures from the trade team tour on our Flickr online photo album.

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