Reports on Corn Prices Affect the Market. The debate continues regarding the impact of corn prices on consumer goods. Several news outlets have recently published stories pointing to ethanol as a key factor in higher corn prices and allegedly rising prices of consumer goods, including meat and poultry. Earlier this week, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) issued a strong response to recent television coverage of the issue, refuting claims of significantly higher prices for chicken and eggs at the grocery store. The Council continues to work with U.S. grains’ overseas customers to address similar concerns. These efforts appear to be having an impact as U.S. corn and DDGS exports increased in January and February compared to the same time last year – despite higher corn prices and freight rates. The United States exported 5.85 million metric tons (230 million bushels) of corn and 285,413 tons of DDGS in January and February, increases of 34.5 and 74.25 percent respectively when compared to the same months last year. In fact, the USDA is predicting U.S. corn exports for the 2006/07 marketing year will reach 56 million tons (2.2 billion bushels), only 8 percent below the U.S. corn export record of 61 million tons (2.4 billion bushels) set in 1979/80. Read NCGA’s release online at http://ncga.com/news/OurView/2007/050707.asp.
Computer Casings Made with PLA. Fujitsu, Sharp and Sakata Inx are among the Japanese corporations finding new uses for polylactic acid (PLA), a corn-based polymer, within their product lines. The outside plastic frames of two computer models recently released by Fujitsu are derived from corn and castor oil. The production costs reportedly vary little between computers that are made from PLA and those that are not. “Fujitsu has established policies that require them to use plant derived raw materials for PCs and mobile phones,” said Hiroko Sakashita, associate director for the Council’s Tokyo office. Sharp Corporation announced last month it has successfully developed a blend of PLA and conventional plastics for use in electronic home appliances. “They were concerned about the strength and durability of plant-derived plastics, but the new technology allows the PLA to blend successfully with materials frequently used for electric appliances, such as polystyrene,” Sakashita explained. Sharp will adopt the new blended material for its home appliance products by the end of the year. Sakata Inx, the largest manufacturer of newspaper ink in Japan, has developed a corn-based ink it will use for printing on package film that is also made from corn so that the entire package, including the ink, will biodegrade. Sakata Inx released the new ink this spring. It will primarily be used on food packaging. The U.S. Grains Council has worked to promote bioplastics in Japan and throughout Asia as a growing market for U.S. corn. Nikkei Biotechnology & Business Review estimates the Japanese market for bioplastics to be worth $22 million.