Illinois farmers applaud Vietnam resuming U.S. grain imports


The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Vietnam will resume imports of American distillers dried grains (DDGS), a coproduct of ethanol production, and that’s welcome news to the Illinois’ ethanol industry.

Sean Broderick with agricultural coop CHS – which has ethanol plants in Annawan and Rochelle, Illinois – applauded the announcement.

“We’re really happy to have a success story like Vietnam,” Broderick said, “especially when we know they can take the amount that they have in the past.”

USDA said before Vietnam’s suspension in December 2016 due to reported pest detection, it was the third largest importer of American DDGS, with exports valued at more than $230 million in 2016.

Broderick said resumption means Illinois should be able to take advantage of its unique location to rivers and Chicago.

“A lot of product goes into the Chicago area,” Broderick said, “where there are a lot of empty containers and those are reloaded with distillers grains and shipped over to basically Asia at a much cheaper rate ... than we can ship to California.”

However, Broderick said there’s going to be some catching up to do, given the decrease of American DDGS exports to China due the Chinese government subsidizing local agriculture.

“We’re still, I would say, suffering the effects of having had Chinese business and then having not,” Broderick said, “so going out and finding other markets like Vietnam or Thailand or Malaysia or the Philipines” is important.

Regardless, Broderick said “anytime you have a good market for the downstream products, it’s a great thing for the initial product.”

USDA said DDGS is used as an ingredient to provide protein and energy in animal feed.

It’s not just dried distillers grains Illinois ethanol producers will be able to again ship to Vietnam. The USDA said wheat and corn exports to the Southeast Asian country will resume as well.

Illinois Wheat Association’s Jim Fraley said the news is encouraging, especially with higher wheat prices.

“It’s all about the quality of the kernel and the crop,” Fraley said, “and we’ve got an excellent one that is coming to the elevators and millers this summer.”

Fraley said there’s still a lot of competition from other Vietnam trade partners like Australia, but the country's growing demand of a western diet is a good trend for Illinois agriculture products.

Illinois Corn Growers’ Business Development Director Dave Loos also said they’re excited about the announcement, especially with Illinois Ethanol plants close to river systems ready to export.


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