World Grain - June 2020 - 66

GRAIN OPERATIONS

Storing imported corn
from the United States
Wet 2019 corn harvest causing moisture content challenges for importers
by Dirk Maier

66

low fungi to sporulate, especially when relatively colder corn is
imported and stored in warmer, more humid climates. The onset
of spoilage is accelerated when corn contains large amounts of
broken corn and foreign material (BCFM). Fortunately, this is
not the case in most years, but the 2019 harvest BCFM data does
not bode well for the 2019-20 marketing year. As was the case for
moisture content, it was the highest average and greatest variabilLW\VLQFHWKH86*&SXEOLVKHGLWV¿UVWUHSRUWIRUWKHKDUYHVW
Although purely speculative, past BCFM data indicates a fourfold increase between harvest and export, which for the 2019-20
marketing year could mean an aggregated average of 4%, which
would meet US grade 3 but would be one percentage point higher
than US grade 2 allows. Broken kernels mean starch exposed to
fungal spores that together with more dust and higher moisture
kernels will accelerate the onset of spoilage and increase the
potential for self-heating. Clearly, extra care needed to be taken
by US farmers and grain handlers to monitor and maintain grain
quality than during previous years to prevent the onset of spoilage due to mold growth during storage and transport.
Likewise, operations managers at overseas locations of importers, grain handlers, and feed millers also will need to pay greater
attention to monitor and maintain stored grain quality before end
use. This article focuses on best practices to do that.
MOISTURE AND MOLD MANAGEMENT
Importers of US corn, especially into tropical climates, face
greater challenges to maintain quality during storage than do
their counterparts in the United States. Reasons include:
x The repeated handling from farm to export terminal and
again from import terminal to end user produces more
breakage and dust.
x The ambient temperature is higher than the temperature
corn was held at during the winter storage period in the
United States.
x The combination of ambient temperature and relative humidity in the tropics is higher than the equilibrium relative
June 2020 / World Grain / www.World-Grain.com

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The 2019-20 Corn Harvest Quality Report published by the US
Grains Council (USGC) states that the actual quality buyers will
REVHUYH GXULQJ WKH FXUUHQW PDUNHWLQJ \HDU ZLOO EH D൵HFWHG E\
how the corn has been handled, dried, stored and blended since it
was harvested in October through December of last year.
Late planting in April through June of 2019 and wet weather
in October and November delayed harvest and required much
PRUHFRUQWREHGULHGDUWL¿FLDOO\WKDQKDGEHHQIRUDERXWDGHcade. High harvest moisture results in more corn stored at moisture contents above the recommended safe storage level, which
across the Midwestern US is 15% to 16%. Unfortunately, that
was the case as it was the highest average and greatest variabiliW\VLQFHWKH86*&SXEOLVKHGLWV¿UVWUHSRUWIRUWKHKDUYHVW
Moisture content is not a grading factor and thus not part of the
US Grain Standard. Thus, any US corn grade could theoretically
be met with respect to test weight, heat and total damaged kernels, and broken corn and foreign material at moisture contents
that may be above what is safe in the overseas locations of importers, grain handlers and feed millers. Fortunately, this is rarely
the case as the aggregated moisture content data for US exports
over the last six marketing years shows (Figure 1, page 69).
Although speculative, past moisture data indicates a 1.8-percentage point decrease between harvest and export, which for the
2019-20 marketing year could mean an aggregated average of
15.7%. The recommended safe storage moisture content in tropical climates is no higher than 14% to 14.5%, especially if corn is
to be stored for more than a few weeks. It is critical that importers specify a moisture content limit in their purchasing contracts.
At export terminals, corn is not dried but blended to meet conWUDFWVSHFL¿FDWLRQV:KHQFRUQDWWRPRLVWXUHFRQWHQW
is blended with corn at 12% to 13%, a mix of corn results that
has individual kernels at moisture contents that may range from
10% to 18%. Unless corn is aerated - which it is not during
ocean transport - kernels will not equilibrate to the average of
14% for weeks. Those kernels at moisture contents higher than
safe for storage have a substantially shorter shelf life and will al-


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