Last week major media sources reported that three North Carolina firms have contracted to import 750 thousand metric tons of corn from Brazil. The hog division of Prestage Farms, Murphy-Brown and poultry company Nash, Johnson & Sons’ Farms made the deal for up to 15 cargo ships to import corn through the Port of Wilmington. NC Swine Economist Dr. Nick Piggot says there’s nothing to be upset about:
“It is an insurance policy for the livestock industry when they have tails and feathers that need to be fed and if they don’t get the feed then they die. We had a pretty good crop in NC, but we still have a massive deficit that has to be filled. And we are in a world market. I’ve been trying to educate the grain growers that this isn’t a bad thing and their customers are taking the right steps to make sure they will be there next year.”
So, let’s clarify the math here a bit, 750 thousand metric tons equals 29.5 million bushels of corn which is just over a third of North Carolina’s state-wide five-year average production. So, whether it came from the Midwest by rail, or Brazil by ship, corn would be coming into the state some how to keep the state’s pork and poultry industry fed.
Piggot explains that getting grain from the Port of Wilmington to the central part of the state could be a challenge. Most feed mills are equipped with door-to-door service in the form of a railhead, but trucking from the port is a different matter:
“Logistics is the other issue. There are only so many trucks to deliver and they are not hauling the grain out of our fields. This is a big logistical challenged, but the livestock industry and the grains are really working together.”
2012 has been the first year that grain sorghum has been grown widely in the Carolinas, due in no small part to an initiative by Murphy Brown to replace corn in feed with sorghum. Piggot explains that 50,000 acres is a good start:
“We have gone from a few thousand acres to about 60,000 acres. That is partly due to some seed money from Murphy Brown and NC State and VA Tech and NCDA. We are trying to make ourselves more grain self sufficient.”
NC State Economist Dr. Nick Piggot.