Corn Demand Is Rising in Costa Rica


Jan 13, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

Costa Rica’s domestic Corn production is minimal. According to the USDA, the country’s Corn production was 6,000 tons in MY 2021/2022. Corn cultivation in Costa Rica is concentrated in three regions: Chorotega, Huetar Norte, and Brunca. Production has decreased yearly due to two compelling reasons: market pressure and climatic aspects that have hit the country. Since 2016, it has fallen from 2.80 tons per hectare to 1.57 in the agricultural cycle of 2019.

Costa Rica’s total Corn imports reached $175 million in 2018. The volume is expected to continue increasing to satisfy a growing population and economy.  Most Corn imported by Costa Rica is yellow Corn used in animal feed production.  A smaller volume of white Corn is imported for tortilla and Corn flower production. Although most of the imported volume is represented by yellow Corn used for animal feed, imports of white Corn for human consumption in tortillas have increased due to lower domestic production.

95% of the Corn consumed in the country is yellow Corn, which is used mainly for bird feed, and 5% is white Corn. Of the yellow grain, between 800,000 and 850,000 tons are imported annually, while approximately 40,000 tons of the white are imported each year. Most of the imports (99.9% of the yellow and 75% of the white) come from the United States; other markets are Brazil, Mexico, or Guatemala.

These grains, produced with subsidies, enter Costa Rica with a 1% tariff. Since January 1, 2020, they have entered without taxes, for which the prices are much lower and convenient for the industry compared to Corn produced locally. The price requested by Costa Rican producers is practically double that of imported Corn, making it difficult to sell.

Costa Rica’s Corn Trade

In 2020, Costa Rica imported Corn worth $181 million, becoming the 40th largest importer of Corn in the world. The same year, Corn was the 11th most imported product in Costa Rica. Costa Rica imports Corn primarily from: the United States ($161 million), Brazil ($8.87 million), Argentina ($5.4 million), Mexico ($5.09 million), and Guatemala ($219k). Costa Rica’s Corn import constantly increased yearly to 1 million tons in 2020 from 663,000 tons in 2010. The country’s population is now 5.2 million.

According to AgFlow data, the United States shipped 412,132 tons of Corn to Costa Rica in 2022, while Brazil exported 381,434 tons. The most significant volume of the US shipment took place in April (77,606 tons) and February (73,275 tons). Brazil shipped the most enormous volumes in October (129,293 tons) and August (90,981 tons).

The United States competes with South America in the Costa Rican market, although it has maintained the largest market share. Lower prices offered by South American suppliers occasionally result in a market share loss. The Corn market is expected to grow in the future due to the growing local demand for animal feed. And the local poultry and dairy sectors continue to drive import growth.

In terms of Corn seed, Costa Rica imported seed worth $535k. Costa Rica imports Corn seeds primarily from: Mexico ($243k), Guatemala ($197k), Brazil ($40.2k), Thailand ($34k), and the United States ($19.7k).

In 2020, Costa Rica exported Corn worth $1.57 million, making it the 76th largest exporter of Corn in the world. In the same year, Corn was the 267th most shipped product in Costa Rica. The leading destination of Corn exports from Costa Rica is its neighboring Panama ($1.48 million), El Salvador ($44.8k), Guatemala ($30.2k), Nicaragua ($6.91k), and the Netherlands ($134).

Other sources: UCR

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