Argentina Expects China to Agree on Corn Imports

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Argentina, the second-largest corn shipper, expects China to agree on buying the grain in the first half of 2011, Minister of Agriculture Julian Dominguez said.

China, the second-biggest corn user, has made no commitment yet to import, Dominguez told reporters in Beijing. Argentina may have 20 million tons of corn surplus next year, he said.

Argentina was in talks with China on a so-called sanitary protocol that would allow it to export the grain to the Asian nation, the South American nation’s Ministry of Agriculture said Nov. 12. It expects to speed up discussions with China next year to become an alternative supplier, the ministry said, without providing further details. China’s Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu held talks with Dominguez last month in Argentina.

China, the second-biggest corn consumer, has bought about 1.5 million tons of the grain from the U.S. this year, the most since about 1995, as the government sought to cool local prices that surged about 27 percent in the year before November, when the government began a crackdown on inflation. Prices of corn in Chicago surged 53 percent in the same period partly on expectation China may need to boost imports to meet demand.

Argentina has handed to China’s quarantine authority its application for the risk analysis regarding sanitary protocol, Undersecretary of Agriculture Oscar Solis said in an interview today. The authority has said it may take less time than usual to approve because some of the work has been done when China went through the process of approving imports of Argentine barley, Solis said. China will grant the approval next year because it is expected to have a shortage and global supply is tightening, Solis said.

China needs to “diversify” its supplier base, he said.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: William Bi in Beijing at wbi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Poole at jpoole4@bloomberg.net