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Corn prices have jumped 142% in the past year amid rising demand from China, drought in Brazil

Business Insider logo Business Insider 5/4/2021 wdaniel@businessinsider.com (Will Daniel)
a person standing in front of corn: Farmer Dan Roberts inspects his corn crop during the harvest in Minooka, Illinois. Jim Young/Reuters © Jim Young/Reuters Farmer Dan Roberts inspects his corn crop during the harvest in Minooka, Illinois. Jim Young/Reuters

Corn prices have jumped roughly 142% over the past year to $7.56 per bushel, the highest price seen in eight years for the crop.

A drought in Brazil and increased demand in China have put pressure on global suppliers.

According to data published on Tuesday by the US Census Bureau, corn exports increased from $2.2 billion through March of 2020 to $5.5 billion through the first three months of 2021, and in March alone, the US exported $2.12 billion worth of the crop.

China had not been a major corn importer for several years under the Trump administration, but domestic corn prices began rising in early 2020, leading to unusually large purchases from the Chinese.

Additionally, in the April 9 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, the USDA revealed corn stocks in 2020-2021 hit a seven-year low of 1.352 billion bushels.

Falling supply and rising demand, coupled with a drought in Brazil, have corn prices surging globally.

Brazil's 2020/2021 total corn crop estimate was lowered by nearly 8% to 104.1 million tonnes as dry weather continues to hurt yields in the country, forecaster Safras & Mercado reported last Friday.

"Brazil's weather continues to provide support for the price gains. A material chunk of Brazil's second corn crop sits in drying soils," Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, told Agriculture.com.

"The situation is critical in Brazil," Paris-based adviser Agritel said in a report, per Bloomberg.

"This should further strain the global balance sheet, while the U.S. will have to partly compensate for the drop in South American exports," Agritel added.

Rising corn prices have had a big impact on a number of goods including tortillas in Mexico.

CNN reported that prices per kilogram of corn tortillas are nearing $1 (20 pesos) in the country-last year national prices hovered between 9.7 and 18 pesos.

Rising commodity prices go beyond corn, with everything from lumber to copper surging and leading many economists to worry about inflation.

Mohamed El-Erian, the chief economic adviser at Allianz and president of Queens's College, Cambridge, told CNBC on Monday that he believes inflation is here to stay and not "transitory" as the Federal Reserve claims.

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