Inspections of grain from U.S. ports increased 50% in the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2020, hitting a record 40 million metric tons (mmt), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).

Higher corn and soybean inspections drove the year-to-year increase in total grain inspections, the USDA said. Also, total inspections in each of the major export regions also increased. First-quarter 2021 inspections marked a 31% increase from the five-year average.

Overall, grain inspections increased mainly because of rising demand from Asia and Latin America.

Breakdowns by Commodity

Corn. At 18.8 mmt, first-quarter 2021 corn inspections were up 55% from the five-year average and up 95% from year to year, the FGIS reported. About 90% of first-quarter 2021 total corn shipments were to Asia and Latin America. First-quarter U.S. Gulf corn inspections increased 97%, and Pacific Northwest (PNW) corn inspections jumped 194%. Rising demand for grain from China and other Asian countries have boosted U.S. corn exports, FGIS said.

Soybeans. At 15.4 mmt, total first-quarter soybean inspections were up 25% from the five-year average and up 55% from year to year. First-quarter soybean inspections in the U.S. Gulf jumped 52% and 89 percent in the PNW. At 7.6 mmt, soybeans inspected for export to China were up 143%.

Wheat. At 5.4 mmt, first-quarter wheat inspections were 6% below the five-year average and down 21% from year to year, according to the FGIS. U.S. wheat inspections decreased mainly because of the 53% drop in the U.S. Gulf, which resulted from lower demand from Africa, primarily, from Nigeria. Interior and Atlantic-Great Lakes wheat inspections rose year to year.

According to the March issue of USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), the corn, wheat, and soybeans exports forecast for marketing year (MY) 2020-21 are unchanged from their numbers in the February WASDE. From MY 2019-20, U.S. corn exports are projected to rise 47%; wheat exports are projected to increase 2% from MY 2019-20; and soybean exports are projected to rise 34%. Cumulative (shipped) marketing year-to date export sales of corn and soybeans are well above the year-to-date sales for MY 2019/20. Cumulative year-to-date export sales of wheat are unchanged from MY 2019-20.