By any measure, corn had a difficult year in 2012. Drought severely limited the US harvest of this important agricultural commodity crop. Yet these conditions won’t necessarily cause problems for baked foods and snacks made with corn starch, according to what starch suppliers told Baking & Snack.

“The percentage of the crop dedicated to producing food ingredients is relatively minor when compared with other uses such as animal feed, ethanol and exports,” explained Carl Jaundoo, PhD, associate program coordinator, Roquette America, Inc., Keokuk, IA. “While raw material costs for corn-based food ingredients are expected to increase significantly, at this time, we do not expect difficulties with availability.”

Joe Carmosino, technical director, Manildra Group USA, Shawnee Mission, KS, expressed a similar opinion. “We believe the results of the drought will be mostly seen in high food price throughout the US as wheat is increasingly used to cover for corn in many of the nation’s feedlots,” he said. Starch supplies, however, will be adequate to meet food processors’ needs throughout the year, with no shortages anticipated for 2012-13, he added.

Two years ago, potato crops in Europe withered, reported Mel Festejo, COO, American Key Food Products, Closter, NJ. The resulting higher prices for potato starches influenced tapioca costs. Looking at this year’s conditions, he said, “When corn is limited, it tends to put more demand on potato and tapioca starches.”

Starch suppliers proactively advise their customers about conditions and work with their supply chain. “To the extent that the customer’s application allows one starch to be substituted with another — for example, native tapioca for native potato starch — we recommend the shift as a means to cope with the supply gap,” Mr. Festejo said.