The United States: The largest corn consumer
The United States is the biggest user of corn, consuming 265 million mt (metric tonnes) of corn in 2012—equivalent to 26% of global consumption. To put that into perspective, an average US citizen uses about 4.35 ears of corns a day. Corn can be found in cooking oil, fuel, paint, syrup, crayons, candles, cereals, feed, beverages, and much more, which makes it an essential crop for people living in the United States.
Breakdown of corn use
Based on the USDA’s estimate for crop year (from September 2012 to August 2013), the largest category of corn use goes to feed (food to feed cows, pork, and chicken), followed by production of ethanol, which is primarily used as fuels for cars. In the United States, the majority of growth in corn consumption has been driven by FSI (food, seed, and industrial goods). This category comprises beverages, ethanol fuel, starch, corn syrup, cereals, and sweeteners.
At the start of the century, corn used for FSI only took up 2.0 million bushels a year. Largely driven by the US government’s push to use more ethanol (as a renewable energy) in cars, and to a probably insignificant extent driven by an increase in sweetener use as well as cereal and food consumption, the 2.0 million bushel consumption tripled over the course of ten years.
FSI grows, feed application negatively affected
As FSI demand accelerated from 2005, due to new government stimulus to adopt increased ethanol usage amid higher oil prices, corn prices rose. What used to be just $2.00 a bushel quickly rose to $4.00 in 2007, and shot up to as high as $8.00 in 2012, when one of the worst droughts in US history negatively affected yield. While that has benefited fertilizer companies like Potash Corp. (POT), Mosaic Co. (MOS), Agrium Inc. (AGU), and CF Industries Holdings Inc. (CF), as well as the VanEck Vectors Agribusiness ETF (MOO), demand for corn as a feed to grow cattle, pigs, and chicken fell. While livestock farmers traditionally purchased ~6.0 million barrels of corn, that figure fell to ~4.0 million by the end of 2012. Higher costs to raise livestock have resulted in higher prices for customers, which has been a factor causing US meat consumption to fall.