Corn is a member of the grass family of plants and is a native grain of the American continents. Fossils of corn pollen that are over 80,000 years old have been found in lake sediment under Mexico City. Archaeological discoveries show that cultivated corn existed in the southwestern U.S. for at least 3,000 years, indicating that the indigenous people of the region cultivated corn as a food crop long before the Europeans reached the New World. Corn is a hardy plant that grows in many different areas of the world. It can grow at altitudes as low as sea level and as high as 12,000 feet in the South American Andes Mountains. Corn can also grow in tropical climates that receive up to 400 inches of rainfall per year, or in areas that receive only 12 inches of rainfall per year. Corn is used primarily as livestock feed in the United States and the rest of the world. Other uses for corn are alcohol additives for gasoline, adhesives, corn oil for cooking and margarine, sweeteners, and as food for humans. Corn is the largest crop in the U.S., both in terms of the value of the crop and of the acres planted.
The largest futures and options market for corn is at the CME Group. Corn futures and options also trade at ICE Futures U.S., the Bolsa de Mercadorias & Futuros (BM&F), the JSE Securities Exchange, the Mercado a Termino de Buenos Aires (MTBA), and the NYSE LIFFE European Derivatives Market. Corn futures are traded on the Budapest Stock Exchange (BSE), the Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE), the Kansai Commodities Exchange, the Moscow Exchange, Rosario Futures Exchange, and the Tokyo Grain Exchange (TGE). The CME futures contract calls for the delivery of 5000 bushels of No. 2 yellow corn at par contract price, No. 1 yellow at 1-1/2 cents per bushel over the contract price, or No. 3 yellow at 1-1/2 cents per bushel below the contract price.
Prices - CME corn futures prices (Barchart.com electronic symbol code ZC) trended higher into May 2014 and posted a 1-1/2 year high of $5.1950 a bushel. Strong foreign demand for U.S. corn pushed prices higher into May. In April, 2013/14 cumulative U.S. 2013/14 corn exports were up by a whopping 100% yr/yr, which prompted the USDA to hike its U.S. 2013/14 corn export forecast to a 2-year high of 1.75 billion bushels. However, ideal spring weather in the U.S. led to early corn plantings and the USDA in May projected a record U.S. 2014/15 corn crop of 13.935 billion bushels and record global 2014/15 corn production of 979 MMT. Also, supplies were more than adequate after the USDA raised its U.S. quarterly corn stocks on March 1 to a 4-year high of 7.01 billion bushels and projected 2014/15 global corn ending stocks would climb to a record 181.79 MMT. Signs of record corn production and supplies sent corn prices cascading lower from May into October by more than -$2.00 a bushel when they posted a 5-1/4 year low of $3.1825 a bushel. In October, the USDA raised its U.S. 2014/15 corn production estimate to a record 14.475 billion bushels and raised its 2014/15 U.S. corn ending stocks estimate to 2.081 billion bushels, a 21-year high. The USDA also raised its 2014/15 global corn production estimate to a record 990.69 MMT and raised its 2014/15 global corn ending stocks estimate to a record 190.58 MMT. Corn prices bottomed in October, though, due to the slow pace of the U.S. corn harvest. The USDA Crop Progress report showed 31% of the U.S. corn crop was harvested as of Oct 19, well below the 5-year average of 53%. This caused the USDA in November to unexpectedly cut its U.S. 2014/15 corn production estimate to 14.407 billion bushels and reduce its U.S. corn ending stocks estimate to 2.088 billion bushels. Stronger domestic demand helped push corn prices up to a 6-month high in December after U.S. ethanol production rose to a record 992,000 bpd in the week ended Dec 19. Prices finished 2014 down 5.9% at $3.97 a bushel.
Supply - World production of corn in the 2014-15 marketing year rose +0.1% to 988.077 million metric tons, a new record high. The world's largest corn producers are the U.S. with 36.5% of world production, China (21.8%), and Brazil (7.6%). Corn production in both China and Brazil has nearly tripled since 1980. Production in the U.S. over that same time frame has risen by about 50%. The world area harvested with corn in 2014-15 fell -1.6% yr/yr to 317.2 million hectares, below last year's 14-year high of 322.4 million hectares. World ending stocks of corn and coarse grains in 2014-15 rose +7.7% to 226.0 million metric tons.
U.S. corn production estimates for the 2014-15 marketing year (Sep-Aug) rose by +2.8% yr/yr to 14.215 billion bushels. U.S. farmers harvested 83.136 million acres of corn for grain usage in 2014-15, which was down -4.9% yr/yr. U.S. corn yield in 2014-15 rose +8.2% to 171.0 bushels per acre. U.S. 2014-15 ending stocks rose by +68.4% to 2.080 billion bushels. The largest corn producing states in the U.S. in 2014 were Iowa with 16.7% of U.S. production, Illinois (16.5%), Nebraska (11.3%), Minnesota (8.3%), and Indiana (7.6%). The value of the U.S. corn crop in 2013-14 (latest data) was $62.716 billion.
Demand - World consumption of corn and rough grains in 2014-15 rose +1.5% yr/yr to 1.256 billion metric tons, a new record high. The U.S. distribution tables for corn show that in 2014-15 the largest category of usage, aside from animal feed, is for ethanol production (alcohol fuel) with 5.125 billion bushels, which is 78.5% of total non-feed usage. That was down -0.1% yr/yr. Corn usage for ethanol is more than seven times the usage in 2000. After ethanol, the largest non-feed usage categories are for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with 7.5% of U.S. usage, glucose and dextrose sugars (4.5%), corn starch (3.8%), cereal and other corn products (3.1%), and alcoholic beverages (2.2%).
Trade - U.S. exports of corn in 2014-15 fell -4.2% to 1.983 billion bushels. The largest destination countries for U.S. corn exports are Japan, which accounted for 36% of U.S. corn exports, Mexico (27%), and Venezuela (6%).
Articles from the Commodity Research Bureau (CRB) Commodity Yearbook. The single most comprehensive source of commodity and futures market information available, the Yearbook is the book of record of the Commodity Research Bureau, which is, in turn, the organization of record for the commodity industry itself. Its sources - reports from governments, private industries, and trade and industrial associations - are authoritative, and its historical scope is second to none. Additional information can be found at www.crbyearbook.com.