China imported more than one million tonnes of corn in September, customs data showed Oct. 23, bringing shipments for the first nine months of the year close to its annual low-tariff quota volume for the first time on record.
The country has been purchasing large volumes of corn to ease the pressure from tight supplies that have sent prices to record highs this year, fuelling food security worries in the world’s most populous nation.
The world’s second-largest corn consumer sets an annual tariff-rate quota (TRQ) of 7.2 million tonnes for corn imports each year but has never previously used all of the quota. It has already imported 6.7 million tonnes of the grain so far this year.
Its prior record was 5.2 million tonnes in 2012.
Beijing is expected to issue more import quotas and buy millions of tonnes of additional corn in the new crop marketing year, three industry sources told Reuters.
The surge in corn prices has also driven a jump in China’s imports of other feed grains, such as sorghum, 3.5 million tonnes of which were imported in the first nine months of the year, up 462.8 per cent from the previous year.
Barley imports climbed back to levels hit in the previous year even as hefty tariffs imposed on cargoes from Australia, traditionally the top supplier of the grain to China, effectively stopped trade.
“China is going to import a lot more grains like barley, sorghum, and corn in the new marketing year, as the domestic (corn) prices would remain high,” said Xie Jinjiang, an analyst with trade website Myagric.com.
“But I think when it comes to barley and sorghum, imports won’t exceed the historical records as these grains are already getting more expensive and will eventually lose their edge to substitute corn,” Xie said.
At the same time agriculture officials were saying pork supplies in China, the world’s top consumer, will be 30 per cent higher during this year’s Lunar New Year holiday from the same period a year ago, after significant efforts to rebuild a depleted hog herd.
Producers have built 12,500 new large-scale pig farms in the first three quarters of the year and restarted more than 13,000 empty farms, an official told reporters.