With planting underway in the major popcorn growing areas, CAMPI weighs in on what international markets can expect from Argentina in 2016/17.

By CAMPI

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As of early December, the first popcorn crop has been fully planted in the provinces of Buenos Aires and Santa Fe, which is where most of Argentina’s popcorn is grown. The second crop will be planted throughout the month of December, as will the popcorn crop in the northern region of the country. The first crop was planted under normal weather conditions, although some areas did receive excessive moisture. Presently, moisture levels are less than ideal in some areas of the country, and this could be a problem if there is an absence of rain through the remainder of December, when the crop is in the flowering stage.

The 2016/17 campaign is the first campaign seeded under the new government of President Mauricio Macri. With the Macri administration’s elimination of export duties on field corn, CAMPI believes a higher percentage of the popcorn crop will be planted directly by exporters, who, understanding the needs and weaknesses of the global popcorn market, will pursue an intelligent production approach that will generate a popcorn supply in accordance with the typical needs of global markets.

It is vital to keep this point in mind, as popcorn competes against field corn for area, and at current field corn prices of US$ 160 per MT, the temptation to plant popcorn is not there for opportunistic growers and exporters. This is a positive, as their participation has the potential to generate market distortions, as occurred in 2015, when supply far exceeded demand, a situation that was exacerbated by Brazil’s emergence as a popcorn exporter, contributing more than 60,000 MT to an already glutted and inelastic global popcorn market. This caused popcorn prices to plummet in 2015, with FOB prices out of Buenos Aires falling from US$ 800 per MT at the start of the year to US$ 300 per MT by year’s end. Under a controlled and intelligent production approach in both Argentina and Brazil, the popcorn industry can expect to see prices recover, as occurred in 2016.   

Exporters report that their stocks on hand are very tight and project that there will be no carryover heading into the next harvest in April 2017. They also project that the 2016/17 crop will easily cover expected demand from Argentina’s traditional popcorn buyers.

It is important to keep in mind that these projections are based on normal weather conditions. There is still a long way to go before harvest, and therefore projections should be taken with due caution.

With respect to pricing, we believe current levels are reasonable and represent market equilibrium. At these prices, established popcorn exporters can realize a profit while, with current field corn prices being what they are, there is no incentive for opportunistic operators to enter the market and possibly repeat the overproduction scenario previously described.

Furthermore, the processing plant certification system for popcorn exports implemented by SENASA in 2016 represents the latest step in the professionalization of Argentina’s popcorn sector and guarantees international buyers a quality food product that is fit for direct human consumption.

Argentine Popcorn Prices (Nov. 2014 – Nov. 2016)

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MONTH Average FOB price (US$ per MT)
2014 Nov 532.06
2014 Dec 506.53
2015 Jan 488.28
2015 Feb. 482.65
2015 Mar. 459.64
2015 Apr. 448.13
2015 May 431.32
2015 Jun. 404.76
2015 Jul. 385.10
2015 Aug. 382.13
2015 Sep. 369.84
2015 Oct. 367.95
2015 Nov. 379.33
2015 Dec. 392.54
2016 Jan. 419.12
2016 Feb. 421.86
2016 Mar. 439.34
2016 Apr. 461.46
2016 May 467.10
2016 Jun. 485.66
2016 Jul. 506.09
2016 Aug. 514.13
2016 Sep. 539.29
2016 Oct. 560.45
2016 Nov. 568.56
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Dario Bard, IFT Journalist