Southeast Asian Wheat and Corn Imports Double in Past Decade As U.S. Market Share Slides

Since 2006/07, combined imports of wheat and corn by Southeast Asian countries more than doubled, fueled by growing populations and stable economic growth. Consumption is up for both food and feed as regional diets increasingly incorporate animal protein and western-style foods. Wheat food consumption has increased nearly 50 percent in the last decade, while feed use of wheat has more than tripled, with wheat being a preferred feed for aquaculture. With negligible production of wheat, the region is entirely reliant on imports. Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand are the primary wheat importers. Corn feed consumption is up 70 percent during the last decade. For much of the region, corn production largely satisfies demand. Malaysia is the only major importer that is largely dependent on imports, while Indonesia and Vietnam both produce and import large amounts of corn.

The U.S. market share is trending downward for both commodities. The United States struggles to compete with Canadian and Australian milling wheat on price and proximity, respectively. Ukraine and Argentina primarily meet the demand for feed wheat. Brazil and Argentina dominate the Southeast Asian corn market, supplying over 90 percent of imports. However, Malaysia and Vietnam, the largest importers of corn, are signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Once implemented, the agreement could boost U.S. competitiveness in those countries for both commodities as tariffs are gradually reduced or eliminated.

OVERVIEW

World wheat production for 2015/16 is up as larger crops in Argentina and the EU more than offset reductions in Ethiopia and Pakistan. Global trade is up fractionally this month, with upward revisions for Algeria, China, and others offset by diminished imports for Brazil, Iran, and Sudan. Exports for Argentina and Kazakhstan are raised, while the EU is revised downward. U.S. exports are also trimmed, and the season-average farm price is lowered from last month.

U.S. PRICES:

Prices across most U.S. wheat classes rose through early March on weather concerns in the southern U.S. plains. Smaller-than-anticipated U.S. plantings at month's end preserved the upward trend for most classes. While Hard Red Winter (HRW) slipped fractionally $2/ton to $205, both Hard Red Spring (HRS) and Soft Red Winter (SRW) ended $6/ton up at $231 and $197, respectively. Soft White Wheat (SWW) ended the month unchanged at $191.

CHANGES IN 2015/16

Selected Exporters

  • Argentina is raised 500,000 tons to 7.5 million on a larger crop and a continuing strong pace of shipments, particularly to Southeast Asian markets.
  • The European Union is cut 500,000 tons to 32.0 million on account of lagging export licenses and greater domestic usage.
  • Iran is slashed 300,000 tons to 200,000 due to weak demand and increased regional competition.
  • Kazakhstan is lifted 500,000 tons to 7.0 million on a steady pace of shipments and a competitive advantage over other regional exporters due to a weak currency.
  • Turkey is elevated 300,000 tons to 5.0 million, a quarter-century high, based on the robust pace of flour and products trade.
  • United States is trimmed 200,000 tons to 21.3 million owing to the slow pace of new crop sales. (The marketing year estimate is unchanged)

Selected Importers

  • Algeria is boosted 400,000 tons to 8.1 million due to a strong import pace. The country is taking advantage of low world prices to build its stocks of milling wheat.
  • Brazil is down 500,000 tons to 5.8 million on account of slow pace to date and static domestic consumption.
  • China is raised 500,000 tons to 3.0 million due to persistent demand for premium quality milling wheat.
  • Iran is lowered 700,000 tons to 3.3 million based on a significantly weaker pace of imports resulting from a good domestic crop and government policy. The policy restricts imports of wheat effective in the new Iranian calendar year, which began March 20.
  • Sudan is reduced 500,000 tons to 2.3 million on a very sluggish pace to date as the country grapples with low growth and high inflation.
  • Syria is elevated 300,000 tons to 1.3 million due to greater-than-expected trade to date.
  • Thailand is boosted 300,000 tons to 3.8 million on account of strong shipments to date, particularly from Ukraine and Argentina