Chinese Grain Imports Seen Sliding After Drought Boosted Prices

Chinese grain imports may tumble 17 percent this season from the prior period after a U.S. drought spurred a jump in corn prices, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

Purchases may slide to 10.8 million metric tons in the 2012-13 marketing year begun Oct. 1, according to a country report dated April 30 and posted on the Rome-based FAO’s website. Corn imports may plunge 33 percent to 3.5 million tons. The grain, also known as maize, rallied to a record last year on the Chicago Board of Trade after the worst drought since the 1930s cut production in the U.S., the world’s biggest exporter.

“Despite China’s growing demand for feed use, maize imports are expected to fall,” the FAO said. “This decrease mainly reflects a halt in purchases after the considerably higher maize prices, due to the drought in U.S.A. this year.”

Higher domestic grain production also reduced demand for imports, the FAO said. China’s corn crop, harvested from June to October, rose 8 percent on the year to a record 208.1 million tons in 2012, according to the report. Wheat output last year was 120.6 million tons, 3 percent higher than 2011, while the rice crop climbed 1.6 percent to 204.3 million tons.

China’s next winter-wheat harvest, accounting for 95 percent of total production, will begin this month, the FAO said. Output is pegged at 121.02 million tons, up 0.3 percent from a year earlier. Crops experienced favorable weather conditions early in the season, with ample moisture and cool temperatures from November to January. Dry weather that developed since mid-February in the North China Plain had a “limited” effect on national production, the FAO said.

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