U.S. specialty starch imports set new record in 2021
The U.S. imported over 416,000 MT (917 million pounds) of starch last year, up 15 percent from 2020, thanks to a notable rise in potato and tapioca starch volumes, both of which are “clean label” (non-GMO) ingredients.
Potato starch remained the largest category of U.S. starch imports, at 156,154 MT and up 18 percent year over year. Last year was the fifth consecutive year of annual growth in imports. Europe supplied 85 percent of imported supply, and most of the rest came from Canada. Potato starch imports were less expensive than in 2018-2020, helping boost demand.
Tapioca starch imports also set a new annual record. At 139,487 MT, imports were up 25 percent from 2020 and up 40 percent from the five-year average. Thailand, which historically supplied over 85 percent of U.S. imports, shipped just under 96,000 MT to the States during 2021, down from 102,723 MT in 2020. South America seems to be taking some of Thailand’s market share: Imports from Brazil totaled 16,313 MT, and 14,640 MT came from Paraguay—both volumes wildly higher than what we’ve seen historically as new production capacity is utilized.
Imports of wheat and rice starches (also potential non-GMO ingredients) were both up year on year at 33,352 MT and 29,649 MT, respectively (USITC’s rice starch category includes a small amount of other specialty starch such as pea). Rice starch imports seem to be back to average after three years of strong demand during 2017-2019, while utilization of wheat starch appears to be on an uptrend. Europe and Australia now supply the majority of U.S. wheat starch imports, rather than Canada; Europe also supplies most of our rice starch imports.
Annual U.S. starch imports
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