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Corn Crop in China Curbed by August Typhoon May Lift Imports

China’s Corn Harvest Curbed by August Typhoon, Limiting Supplies
The smaller harvest gain may spur imports of about 4 million tons in 2012-2013, compared with 2 million tons predicted by the USDA, according to the survey. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

     Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s second-largest corn producer, may have a smaller increase in its harvest than earlier estimated after a typhoon in August damaged fields in the northeast, according to a Bloomberg survey.

Output is set to increase 2.2 percent this year from 2011, according to the median of estimates from four researchers and one industry group. That compares with a gain of 3.7 percent predicted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The harvest will be 171 million metric tons from 167 million tons in 2011, says Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Independent researchers in China have historically worked with smaller numbers than official statistics. The USDA estimate is 200 million tons.

World corn supplies are declining after the worst U.S. drought in half a century and dry weather in Europe destroyed crops. Futures in Chicago have climbed 27 percent in the past year as prices rose 1.9 percent on the Dalian Commodity Exchange. The smaller harvest gain may spur imports of about 4 million tons in 2012-2013, compared with 2 million tons predicted by the USDA, according to the survey.

“Corn supply and demand in China will continue to tighten” even with the increase in output, said Li Qiang, chairman of Shanghai JC. Rising domestic demand and a gain in South American supplies may narrow the price gap between local and global markets next year, making imports more likely, he said in an interview Sept. 28.

Corn imported from the U.S. would cost 2,682 yuan ($424) a ton compared with 2,555 yuan for domestic supplies as of Sept. 28, Shanghai JC data show. A smaller harvest may prompt the government to sell stockpiles of corn and feed wheat, boosting the need for imports to replenish inventories. China’s market is closed this week for a national holiday.

Typhoon Damage

There are “large disparities” in crop conditions in the different regions, Zhang Zhixian, analyst at Cngrain.com, a researcher based in Zhengzhou, said by phone Sept. 28. Output in the northeast, the top supplier to the southern consuming regions, may hardly increase because Typhoon Bolaven felled crops at the end of August, he said. Fields in the north China plain, including Hebei and Henan, were in better shape, he said.

“All my crops were blown down by Bolaven,” Wei Guozhi, a 45-year-old farmer of Yushu city in northeastern Jilin province, said Sept. 27 as he picked ears from reaped plants that had lain flat since the August storm. Some were killed while growth of surviving plants was slowed, he said.

The year had “timely wind and rain” until the storm, which will likely cut output from his 400 mu (27 hectares) to 70 percent of the average in past years, Wei said.

Livestock Demand

The typhoon lodged or felled crops in the northeastern provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang, and in northern Shandong, destroying 217,600 hectares, the China National Grain and Oils Information Center said Sept. 12. Grain from lodged plants will be lower quality with more pest damage, it said.

A gain in production will be exceeded by increase in demand, so the country will still need more imports, said the five respondents including Shanghai JC and Cngrain.com.

Consumption of corn by livestock alone is set to expand 6.1 percent to 139 million tons, the USDA says. That compares with about 5 percent growth predicted by the respondents.

“Consumption is increasing: there’s no doubt about it,” Bryan Lohmar, the China country director for the U.S. Grains Council, said Sept. 28. The amount of imports will depend on prices, so “if international prices go down, there will be demand for corn” from China to build inventories, he said.

Corn for December delivery fell 0.6 percent to $7.535 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade today. Futures have slumped 11 percent from a record $8.49 on Aug. 10.

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

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

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