US grains council on managing existing and future feed export markets

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ thitivong
© GettyImages/ thitivong
Growth for feed grains are expected to come from export markets, but what steps are needed to support and grow trade alliances in a period marked by tariffs and counter-tariffs?

We caught up with Tom Sleight, president and CEO at the US Grains Council (UGC) to hear about some of the work that body is doing to navigate the current feed and coarse grain trading market.

There needs to be a continuing focus on both developing new trade relationships and maintaining those already established, said Sleight.

“Global engagement [is needed] - [international markets] that’s where we’re going to get demand growth – we recognize that and we know we’ve got to keep turning over rocks,”​ he said.

“Our members really want to see us focus on demand development,”​ he told FeedNavigator.

“It is hard to regain a market once you’ve stepped away from that market – we know that,”​ he added. “It’s harder to create new markets than to hold on to ones you have.”

People who work in the area of feed and coarse grain exports know that markets can have “long memories.”

Policy discussions

The USGC is also staying involved in policy discussions, said Sleight. There is an understanding that industry members will be able to work through areas where there may be contention, he continued.

The organization has been informing negotiators about market potential and the need for dialogue, he said. “That’s really important and also making sure that we’re seeing new demand development so we can diversify markets."

The Council is currently balancing work with new and older trading partners, without letting priorities swing in either direction, said Sleight. “We have the ability to do both."

“The way we look at things right now is China is important, but so is the rest of the world,” ​he said. “Any kind of free trade​ agreement is important to our industry – we may not see China come back as we thought it would, but we need to be getting busy everywhere in the world including China.”

Outside of trade with China, there are opportunities developing globally, he said. “We’re engaged in India, the Middle East and are looking down the road at Africa and at demand increases in Mexico and North America."

“We’ve been keeping a strong dialogue with Mexican buyers during the NAFTA negotiations and we continue to have them with friends in China,”​ he said.

In countries like Japan and Taiwan trade-related efforts focus on supporting current markets, said Sleight. “Our job is to have a global presence and have an ongoing dialogue."

The USGC is currently working to build markets in other parts of Asia and to capitalize on progress in parts of Africa, he said. “We look strongly to Southeast Asia – particularly on the DDGS side, and North Africa and the Middle East – we’re very interested and encouraged by what’s going on there,”​ he added.

“There is a lot more work we can be doing in Mexico and Latin America as well,” ​he said. “We’ve seen some good openings in loyal and long-standing markets like Korea – we have to continue to look at some of the bright spots.”

Looking forward

The USGC also continues to monitor trade and tariff discussions, like Monday’s announcement​ that the administration may seek to add a 10% tariff on an additional $200bn good from China, said Sleight.

Feed grain producers also could benefit from watching the ongoing discussions about trade because grain production is a global industry, he said. “They need to pay attention to the headlines because it can impact their price one way or the other,”​ he added.

“Global engagement that is really what’s needed,” ​he said. “Not to retreat, but to engage with the world and figure out where we can grow together.” 

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