Maize trade disruption could have global ramifications

Jul 17, 2013

Disruptions to U.S. exports of maize (corn) could pose food security risks for many U.S. trade partners due to the lack of trade among other producing and importing nations, says a Michigan State University study.

The study, featured in the journal Risk Analysis, didn't primarily focus on plant disease, population growth, climate change or the diversion of corn to nonfood uses such as ethanol. It suggests, however, that significant stresses in these areas could jeopardize food security.

This is particularly true in nations like Mexico, Japan and South Korea that have yet to diversify their sources, said Felicia Wu, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, and the study's lead author.

"Disruptions in any one major exporter's supplies could lead to price shocks," she said. "The significance of maize means that it would become a critical food if major exporters experience disruptions due to nonfood diversions, and ."

Maize is at the center of global as growing demands for meat, fuel uses and cereal crop demands increase the grain's pivotal importance in diets worldwide. Wu and her co-investigator, Hasan Guclu with the University of Pittsburgh, developed network models, essentially food trade maps, to track maize trade.

Statistics on maize trade between 217 nations showed that the U.S. is by far the largest exporter, shipping four times as much maize as Argentina, the next largest exporter. The study revealed segregation among clusters of nations, with three prominent groups representing Europe, Brazil and Argentina, and the U.S.

Clustering patterns also revealed that nations generally don't trade broadly worldwide. Those countries that import maize primarily from only one other nation may be vulnerable to any changes in their exporters' ability to produce and ship maize.

"These statistics show that the vast majority of nations are exporting to or importing from only one or a small number of nations," Wu said.

Japan is the largest importer by far, while other nations such as Taiwan and Egypt have more broadly diversified their sources of maize, thereby reducing their vulnerability to export disruptions, she added.

The study suggests that the largest maize producers may be wise to consider potential solutions to combat impacts of on maize production for the purpose of maintaining supplies. Other cereal grains or legumes could fill gaps, softening the impacts of maize production and trade disruptions if the supply were to change.

Explore further: Caterpillars attracted to plant SOS

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Maize hybrid looks promising for biofuel

Feb 20, 2012

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have identified a new contender in the bioenergy race: a temperate and tropical maize hybrid. Their findings, published in GCB Bioenergy, show that the maize hybrid ...

Italy asks EU to halt GM maize cultivation

Apr 04, 2013

The Italian government has asked the European Commission not to renew authorisation of a key genetically-modified corn, according to a letter seen by AFP on Thursday.

Caterpillars attracted to plant SOS

Jul 01, 2013

Plants that emit an airborne distress signal in response to herbivory may actually attract more enemies, according to a new study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Plant Science .

A route for steeper, cheaper, and deeper roots

Jul 04, 2013

Plants with thinner roots can grow deeper, a trait which could be exploited in lands affected by drought and nutrient deprivation. New research, to be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology meeting on July 5, shows ...

Recommended for you

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

11 hours ago

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Building better soybeans for a hot, dry, hungry world

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new study shows that soybean plants can be redesigned to increase crop yields while requiring less water and helping to offset greenhouse gas warming. The study is the first to demonstrate ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.