US Forced to Import Corn from Romania on Organics Demand
A growing demand for organics, and the near-total reliance by US farmers on genetically modified corn and soybeans, is driving a surge in imports from other nations where crops largely are free of bioengineering.
Imports such as corn from Romania and soybeans from India are booming, according to an analysis of US trade data released Wednesday by the Organic Trade Association and Pennsylvania State University.
Most of the corn and soybean shipments become feed for chickens and cows so they can be certified organic under US Department of Agriculture guidelines. Organic poultry and dairy operators shun feed made with seeds from Monsanto and other domestic suppliers in favor of foreign products even as the US remains the world’s top grower of corn and soybeans.
As a result, imports to the US of Romanian corn rose to $11.6 million in 2014 from $545,000 the year before.
Sales of foods certified by the US as free of synthetic chemicals or genetic engineering reached $35.9 billion in 2014, an 11 per cent increase over 2013 and about 5.1 per cent of US grocery spending. The organic sector’s average annual growth of about 10 per cent is triple that of overall food sales, according to US Department of Agriculture and trade association data.
“If there were a market incentive for more people to produce organic corn, there would be more of it,” said Paul Bertels, vice president for production and utilization with the National Corn Growers Association in St. Louis. Even though organic corn is selling for about $12.50 a bushel, more than triple the cash price for regular corn, lower yields and the three-year transition period makes GMO- and synthetics-free grain not worth the risk, he said.
“It’s not worth the headache or the cost” for most producers, he said.
In some cases, nations where farming is less industrial are seizing the advantage. Genetically modified seeds are largely absent from Romania and Ukraine, putting their farmers closer to organic certification for sales in the US, McEvoy said.
Bloomberg News, edited by ESM