China’s Corn Imports to Be World’s Largest by 2015

China may become the world’s largest corn importer in five years as pork and chicken production increases, according to Rabobank Groep NV.

Imports may reach 25 million metric tons in 2015 from 1.3 million tons this year and be 60 million tons in 2020, said Wayne Gordon, a Sydney-based agricultural analyst at Rabobank, following a report by the bank.

Rising purchases by China, the world’s most populous nation, may drive global corn prices higher. Demand for U.S. corn for ethanol and constraints on production may also contribute to tighter global supplies, Gordon said.

“It is quite a bullish picture for feed grains going forward over the next decade,” he said.

Corn for March delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade was little changed at $5.7475 a bushel at 5:57 p.m. Melbourne time. Soybeans rose 0.3 percent to $12.8475 a bushel.

Japan was the world’s largest corn importer in 2009-2010 with purchases of 16 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. is the largest exporter of the grain, ahead of Argentina and Brazil.

China’s increasing corn purchases may have the same effect on the market as its rising demand for soybeans over the past decade, Gordon said. The country is the world’s biggest buyer of soybeans, taking more than half of global exports.

Soybean Gains

Soybeans in Chicago have gained 23 percent this year and reached a 27-month high in November on increased Chinese demand and concern that dry weather in the U.S. and South America will reduce crop yields.

“Economic growth in China is creating more wealth and demand for meat, which means it will continue to need more grain and soybeans,” Roy Huckabay, an executive vice president of the Linn Group in Chicago, said in October.

China may import as much as 15 million tons of corn in 2015 as the country enters a “new era” of buying from overseas, the U.S. Grains Council said in July, citing Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. The country’s previous record imports totaled 4.29 million tons in 1994-1995, according to the USDA.

The imports may reach 10 million tons in 2015, according to a forecast on July 6 from Akio Shibata, chief representative for trading company Marubeni Corp.’s research institute. The company is Japan’s biggest grain trader.

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