Southeast Asia Summit Targets Future Regional Grain Demand

Deb Keller at SEALS
USGC Chairman Deb Keller, a corn farmer from Iowa, speaks at the Southeast Asia Agricultural Leadership Summit in New Zealand.

Deb Keller, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) chairman, left corn harvest preparations at her farm in Iowa behind this week to speak directly with customers during the Southeast Asia Agricultural Leadership Summit (SEALS) in Auckland, New Zealand. 

“The growing importance of the Southeast Asia region for future feed grain demand is why I am here today,” Keller said during opening remarks at her first overseas mission since assuming the role of chairman in August. “This is a critical opportunity for our industry to talk about how we can partner to build together.”

The Summit, jointly organized by the Council and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), brought together grain buyers, traders and end-users from across the Southeast Asian region with the goal of enhancing understanding of world grain flows and trends as well as facilitating dialogue on how U.S. feed grains and co-products can meet future regional demand. 

According to the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Cambodia, rapid population growth and climate volatility are projected to push up demand for food in the region by 40 percent by 2050. The Council includes Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam in the Southeast Asian region. Together, these countries represent a large and growing market for U.S. feed grains and co-products.

“U.S. farmers know that our growth lies beyond our borders, and that our success depends on building markets, serving customers, working to achieve better trade policy and engaging with the world,” Keller said. “We continue to work with you to serve customers who already know the product is worth using, to introduce DDGS to new buyers and to ensure robust markets stay open.”

In addition to commodity-specific presentations, the conference included discussions on China’s impact on world meat markets, new food security technologies, consumer demographic changes, the changing agenda for trade, price risk management and other topics. Farmers Don Duvall, representing the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, and Wayne Humphreys, representing the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, shared updates from the corn crop harvest currently in progress. 

The Council has operated a regional headquarters office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, since 1991 and continues to expand capacity through the region, including recently naming Manuel Sanchez as the new South and Southeast Asia Region Director. 

“We often say we are working around the world and around the clock for our members and our customers,” Keller said to Summit attendees. “We know dedication to these markets and additional effort from the Council are needed to continue to see those markets grow and to increase U.S. market share.”