Europe turning to U.S. grain sorghum

Adverse weather conditons ranging from floods to droughts are forcing Europe’s livestock and feeders and food processors to increase their imports of feed grains, the U.S. Grains Council reports.

The floods come on top of less than ideal growing conditions that resulted in a poor harvest last year. The latter has reduced Europe’s feed grain stocks to unusually low levels, according to the USGC.

“In Western Europe, farmers are encountering flooding and in the eastern areas they are being hit with extreme drought conditions,” said Chris Corry, U.S. Grains Council director of international operations. “This is coupled with the fact that Europe has depleted its interventions stocks, most of which were wheat and barley.”

He added that Europe had minimal feed grains in storage due to a poor harvest last year, also a result of weather. Given the current market situation, Corry said, Europe has turned to U.S. sorghum as a reliable feed source for the livestock sector.

During September, Corry said, 25.4 million bushels (646,000 metric tons) of U.S. grain sorghum has been traded to Europe. The largest buyer is France.

“Since the first of the month, France has purchased an astounding 3.25 million bushels (82,500 tons) of sorghum,” said Corry, adding that Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Spain were also purchasers. “Spain importing 14.8 million bushels (376,500 tons) is not as surprising as it has been a reliable trading partner of U.S sorghum for quite sometime.”

He said that U.S. Grain Council consultants will travel to Europe to assess the market situation and the extent of the crop damages and to try to identify opportunities and constraints.

France may need up to 1 million metric tons of corn and sorghum and is looking to purchase grain from the United States, Brazil and Argentina. However, Brazil and Argentina’s current crop will not be available until next spring. U.S. sorghum may be the primary alternative because of the European Union’s reluctance to purchase biotech grain.

Gretchen Flanley, USGC director of biotechnology programs, said the tight supplies and high feed costs in the European Union have led the agricultural industry to call for a faster regulatory process.

“Although Europe does use a scientifically-based safety assessment of these products, undue delays in the regulatory procedures as well as the political process hamper the approval of biotech events for feed imports.”

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