Argentina exported more than 185,000 tons of popcorn in 2012,cementing its reputation as the world’s top popcorn exporter despite being well below its annual average of 270,000 tons. The below-average amount is the result of a 2012 growing season marked by severe drought conditions.

By Dario Bard

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2012 Recap

Argentina exported more than 185,000 tons of popcorn in 2012, cementing its reputation as the world’s top popcorn exporter despite being well below its annual average of 270,000 tons. The below-average amount is the result of a 2012 growing season marked by severe drought conditions.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Diego Morales of ConAgra Argentina. “This was the worst drought in 80 years and it claimed nearly 50 percent of the crop.”

2013 Outlook

Planting for the 2013 season was delayed due to continuing drought followed by excessive rains from August to November, reports Carlos Wetzler of CFM Brokers. Morales estimates 8 million hectares in Buenos Aires province were flooded.

Even so, Morales expects Argentina will repeat as the top popcorn exporter in 2013, noting that the U.S. experienced drought in 2012 as well, and that 30,000 tons of Argentine popcorn have already been contracted to supply the U.S. market. Morales estimates 50,000 hectares were planted and calculates production at between 200,000 and 220,000 tons.

Wetzler points out that some areas, like the main areas in Salta, were less affected by the adverse weather conditions. But he also expects below average export figures for 2013.

Facts and Figures

Export record: According to Morales, Argentina’s export record is 320,000 tons.

Harvesting: In pampa region (80% of popcorn production), popcorn is normally harvested in March; in the northern provinces, popcorn is normally harvested from May to June.

Price: On average, producers can expect to command US$500 per ton of popcorn. Prices fluctuate due to supply, and Norberto Nobili, president of Baby Pop, a company that sells popcorn domestically, reports seeing popcorn at US$1000 a ton in February 2013; he expects prices to return to US$500 per ton as this season’s crop comes onto the market.

From field to port: Generally, Argentine popcorn growers control the entire production chain, growing, processing and exporting their own products.

Shipping: Argentina benefits from low shipping costs to Asia thanks to container repositioning. The cost of shipping a 20 foot (25 ton) container can range from US$1200 to US$1500.