Corn, Soybean Imports by China Seen Surging in ‘Golden Age’

China, the world’s second-largest corn consumer, may boost imports fourfold this year as meat demand climbs and the country enters “a golden age” of consumption, according to Morgan Stanley.

Imports may increase to 4 million tons in 2011-2012 from 1 million tons the previous year, analysts led by Hussein Allidina wrote in a report e-mailed today. Soybean purchases may gain to 57 million tons from 52 million tons, they said.

Rising incomes and improving diets in China, which has four times the population of the U.S., are raising food consumption as more people move to the cities. Increasing purchases may help curb a 12 percent drop in soybean futures this year in Chicago and bolster a 4.1 percent increase in corn, adding pressure to global food costs that fell 5 percent from a record in February.

“China is entering a golden age for consumption as incomes rise and the poverty rate ratio falls,” the analysts said. Its share of global demand only stands to grow as rising per-capita income drives further westernization of diets, they said.

Purchases of corn may rise to 5.4 million tons in 2012-2013 and to 9.4 million tons the year after, while soybean imports may climb to almost 70 million tons in two years, the bank said.

Corn for December delivery advanced 0.7 percent to $6.55 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade at 3:28 p.m. Singapore time today, and soybeans for January delivery gained 0.5 percent to $12.3975 a bushel.

The country, the second-largest sugar user after India, may boost overseas purchases to 2.8 million tons this season from 2.3 million tons a year before, driven by demand from drinks and candy makers, the bank said.

Demand has “large room to grow” as per-capita sugar consumption is only one-third that of Japan and one-eighth of the U.S., it said. Cotton imports may climb to 3.3 million tons this season from 2.6 million tons as demand from textile makers outpaces production, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Luzi Ann Javier in Singapore at ljavier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net

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