USGC: Severity of EU feed shortage underestimated

Chris Corry, U.S. Grains Council senior director of international operations, is in Europe assessing the current feed grains shortage due to natural calamities and says the situation is worse than he expected. “They have a real big problem over here with grain supplies. We are hearing that Europe will need 17 to 18 million metric tons of feed grains next year. That is how bad things are,” says Corry. “As a result, countries over here are looking for a reliable source of feed grains. Due to biotechnology restrictions and increasing world wheat demand, the European Union’s (EU) trade industry is turning to U.S. sorghum.”

Corry witnessed the first shipment of U.S. sorghum to France on Tuesday, Oct. 2, consisting of 3,000 metric tons (118,104 bushels). Another shipment of 12,000 tons (472,416 bushels) is scheduled for arrival on Sunday, Oct. 7. straight from the United States. A total 300,000 tons (11.8 million bushels) of U.S. sorghum has been purchased with deliveries scheduled through February. “In France alone, we are hearing that before this whole thing is over, the total import volume will be 600,000 to 700,000 tons (23.6 to 27.5million bushels) by March,” Corry says. “In a meeting Wednesday with trade companies, we learned that the total impact volume to all of Europe is expected to be 3 to 4 million tons (118 to 157.4 million bushels) of sorghum.”

If Europe didn’t have issues with grains derived from genetically enhanced seeds, U.S. corn would be flowing into this market “no doubt about it,” Corry says. Although U.S. sorghum growers appear to be the only victors, Corry says “oddly enough” corn farmers will also see benefits. “The sorghum being shipped to Europe is usually destined for Mexico, so that means Mexico will be buying more U.S. corn in 2008,” he notes. “This situation over here is win-win opportunity for all U.S. farmers.”

Corry said the Council will be conducting what he referred to as a “road show” in January. A nutritionist and a feed mill expert will travel across the EU holding a series of workshops. “January will be perfect timing, because livestock operators will have had a chance to use sorghum in their rations and will be prepared to ask questions in order to have greater success with sorghum as a feed grain,” said Corry. “Our goal here is to capitalize on this opportunity to make Europe a consistent buyer of sorghum beyond this crisis situation.”

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