Japan has doubled its grain purchases from Europe since November 2011, opening the potential for a record volume of imports from the region in 2012 as local feed mills look for cheaper alternatives to U.S. corn supplies, according to reports.
Japanese corn purchases from the Black Sea region (Ukraine, Romania and Hungary) reached 1.5 million metric tons for shipments from November 2011 to March, said Nobuyuki Chino, president of Continental Rice Corp. Imports may increase further unless corn from Argentina and Brazil, which normally compete with U.S. grain for sales to the Asian market, becomes cheaper, he said. European shippers are currently offering corn to Japanese buyers at prices more than $20 per metric ton cheaper than the U.S., according to analysts, taking advantage of depreciating currencies against the U.S. dollar.
Japan imported 10.8 million metric tons of corn for feed in the 2011 fiscal year, of which 9.5 million (88 percent) was from the U.S. Argentina was the second-largest supplier with 690,000 metric tons, followed by Brazil with 434,000 metric tons. Japan also imports 4 million metric tons of corn per year for food and other purposes.