Native to the New World, today corn is a staple food for a large part of the population around the globe, being especially important to the diets of several African countries. Corn can be consumed in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, as porridge (such as grits, polenta, or ugali), a popcorn, roasted or fired kernels, as a vegetable (in the form of fresh, frozen, or canned sweet corn), or as flour or meal (cornbread, tortillas, chips, extruded snacks, etc.). Corn is also used to make ethanol (for either drinking or as a fuel source for motor vehicles), its by-products and grains as animal feed and biomass for energy, as a source of cooking oil, and for corn syrup and corn starch in the food industry. Nonetheless, and despite it global reach, 4 of the top 10 corn-producing countries today are still to be found in the Americas to where the crop is native. The crop especially proliferates in the Midwestern Region of the United States, from where some of the world's greatest yields are sourced.
10. South Africa (15.5 million metric tons)
South Africa was the 10th largest corn producing country in the world in 2014, producing 15.5 million metric tons of corn in the same year. The crop is cultivated primarily in the north and north-eastern regions of the country. The South African provinces of Guateng, North-West, Mpumalanga, and Orange Free generate the highest yields of corn in the country. The grain is planted between the months of September to December and harvested between April and June.
9. France (17.1 million metric tons)
In France, corn is grown throughout the country, though the southern part of the nation is responsible for majority of the production. 21% of the total corn produced in the country is obtained from the Aquitaine region, and 13% is contributed by the French state of Midi-Pyrenees. The crop is generally planted in the country between April and May, and harvested between September and November. France produces around 17.1 million metric tons of corn per year as per the data obtained from FAOSTAT’s estimates for 2014. Due to its heavy production levels and low consumption levels, much of the corn produced in the country is exported, rendering France the third largest corn exporter in the world.
8. Indonesia (19.0 million metric tons)
Indonesia is the leading corn producer among the members of the ASEAN Economic Community, with the Philippines and Vietnam trailing behind. In 2014, Indonesia produced 19 million metric tons of this grain, which was slightly higher than the 18.5 million metric tons produced in 2013. Despite being a large corn producer, this Southeast Asian country consumes more corn that it produces. Though the country produced 18.5 million metric tons of corn in 2013, it consumed 20.8 million metric tons in the same year. The majority of the corn is consumed by Indonesia’s booming livestock sector. Key to increasing corn output in this country would be the acquirement of land upon which to expand its corn plantations, though this might unfortunately mean encroachment into forested lands and the destruction of wild, native vegetation.
7. Mexico (32.6 million metric tons)
Corn is the most important crop grown in Mexico, with almost 60% of the country’s cropland being dedicated to this agricultural commodity. The central portions of Mexico contribute nearly 60% of the total corn produced in Mexico. The country harvests two corn crops per year. Within these, the main crop accounts for 70% of the annual corn production, and the secondary harvest makes up the remaining 30% of the total corn production of the country. As per the FAOSTAT data from 2014, corn production in the country was 32.6 million metric tons in 2014, which was significantly higher than the 2013 production level of 22.4 million metric tons. Though the corn produced in the country is self-sufficient to meet the human consumption within the country, and a large part of the produce is also dedicated as animal feed, Mexico still needs to import feed corn for its rapidly growing livestock sector.
6. Ukraine (39.2 million metric tons)
The Ukraine, along with Russia and Kazakhstan, lists among the three principal players responsible for corn production in the Black Sea region. The Ukraine has vast stretches of fertile land richly endowed with chernozem (or ‘black soil’), and this chernozem is some of the most fertile soil in the world. Thus, despite being a small country, a wide variety of crops grow here in abundance. Ukrainian growers produce 39.2 million metric tons of corn annually. In 2013, 46% of Ukraine’s corn was exported to other markets in the European Union. Meanwhile, 14% of the corn was exported to Egypt and an 11% share of the maize production was delivered to markets in South Korea. The other important markets for Ukrainian corn are to be found in Japan, Iran, China, Syria, and a few more countries. 16% of the world’s corn export totals are contributed by the Ukraine.
5. Argentina (40.0 million metric tons)
The corn production in Argentina is currently estimated to be around 40 million metric tons, as per the 2014 estimates by FAOSTAT. According to recent reports generated by the Agriculture Ministry of the country, the farmers of Argentina planted around 5.88 million hectares of corn in the 2015-2016 session. The corn acreage in Argentina in the 2015-2016 period, measured by the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange, was estimated to be significantly less, at around 2.72 million hectares. The recent change in the country’s government administration also provided a boost to the country’s corn producers.
4. India (42.3 million metric tons)
India produces 42.3 million metric tons of corn annually, as per the estimates of the 2014 FAOSTAT data. The crop is primarily grown in the northern states of the country, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and a few others. Uttar Pradesh is the largest corn producing state in the country, accounting for nearly 16% of the country’s corn production. Bihar ranks second in corn production, and produces nearly 14% of the corn in the country. The crop is usually planted at the beginning of the rainy season, between mid-May and July, and is harvested between the first week of November through the end of January.
3. Brazil (83.0 million metric tons)
Full season corn planting in Brazil begins in August and lasts into October or November. The safrinha crop, treated as a secondary crop and usually rotated with soybeans to maximize soil nitrogen levels, is planted at a later stage, in the months from January through February, and sometimes as late as March. The country is the third highest corn producer in the world, producing nearly 83 million metric tons of this crop annually. The peak monthly corn export statistics of the country exhibit a substantial increase as of late, from 1.10 million metric tons in February of 2015 to 5.37 million metric tons in February of 2016. The increased export volume also led to an increase in revenue from $206.4 million in February of 2015 to $892.2 million in February of 2016.
2. China (224.9 million metric tons)
Though rice has long served as the staple food for the Chinese population, over the past few years corn has increasingly replaced rice in its bid to become the top crop in the country. The reason for this change is not attributed to a change in dietary patterns of the Chinese people themselves, but rather to the increasing demand for livestock feed in the country. Over the past 25 years, corn production has undergone a significant increase of 125%, while the rice production has undergone only a 7% increase in the country within the same time span. As a greater volume of the Chinese population is moving towards urban areas, and as wealth and Western tastes increase as well, the consumption of meat in the country is continuously increasing, and so is the need for livestock feed. While in the 1940s two-thirds of the Chinese corn crop production was used for human consumption, currently 60% is used as animal feed. 10% of the corn is used for direct human consumption, and the remaining 30% is used in industrial production to produce such products as corn-based alcohols, sweeteners, and cooking oils.
1. USA (377.5 million metric tons)
With the USA producing nearly 377.5 million metric tons of corn, the crop definitely plays a very significant role in the country’s economy. The United States is the worldwide leader in corn production, and 20% of its annual corn production is exported. 96,000,000 acres of land in the USA are dedicated to corn production. The crop was first introduced into the country thousands of years ago along what is now the US-Mexico border, with the original crop being referred to as "teosinte" in Mexico. After that time, many Native American groups as far north as Canada adopted corn as a staple crop, around which to base more stationary, subsistence agriculture-dependent lifestyles. The practice of corn cultivation was soon learned by the immigrants settling in the Western United States from the Native Americans in the region, and corn cultivation quickly spread across the country's non-Native American farming population. Currently, a large number of US states produce corn, with Iowa being the largest producer of the crop in the country. Iowa led the country in corn production in 2015, closely followed by Illinois and Nebraska. Iowa and Illinois each produced about 2 billion bushels of this crop in 2015. Minnesota and Indiana, meanwhile, each produced over 1 billion bushels of corn in the same year.