Corn is one of the most diverse and important products in our society, used as a food, a cooking oil, a fuel additive, a sweetener, and even as a vital part to the penicillin manufacturing process. However, like many things that are ever-present in our lives, we rarely stop to wonder where it all comes from, naturally just assuming that it comes from corn seeds planted by the good farmers of the Midwestern United States and magically appears on our dinner tables in the midst of summer. The Great Drought of 2012 has intruded a strain on the U.S. as shortages of this vital commodity will last into the next healthy harvest. The graph below, which uses Import Genius US customs data, offers a bit more insight into this story, as corn seeds seem to have a more complicated life than most of us would ever suspect. In fact, corn seed imports accounted for over 600 shipments in 2011, representing more than 250 million lbs of goods brought in on nearly 3500 containers. This information belies the incredible demand for corn seeds in the U.S., as the vast majority of American-based corn seed producers have taken advantage of the Southern Hemisphere’s opposite season cycles to create perpetual motion machine of corn production.
At the end of every corn seed production season, producers will send a significant portion of product (roughly 10% or so) to Argentina, Panama, Chile and sub-tropical locales to grow an entirely new crop down there, in turn bringing a large amount of that yield back into the U.S. as corn seed imports in the spring and early summer months to prepare for the North American planting window. This continuous planting cycle creates a significant opportunity for both air and ocean transportation providers, as the different varieties have widely varied harvest and planting times, forcing corn seed producers to send a significant amount of goods back and forth via air transportation. Clearly, as supported by Import Genius data, there is much more than meets the eye with corn, as not only does the American economy depend heavily on it and all of its byproducts, but the overwhelming demand for it has lead to the creation of a global logistical machine designed to create a never-ending supply. This enormous supply chain has created a great deal of opportunity for all the myriad of players to ensure its smooth flow.