China’s total grain imports in the 2020/21 marketing year are likely to increase to an unpreceded high level of almost 45 million tonnes, exceeding the five‑year average by 80 percent, FAO reports.
The largest increase is foreseen in imports of corn for feed, mostly driven by the recovery in domestic pork production following the African Swine Fever (ASF) in 2018 and 2019 as well as the strong growth in the poultry, dairy and starch sectors. The strong demand has caused a surge in domestic corn prices, encouraging a strong pace of import orders for cheaper corn imports
, as well as cheaper priced feed‑quality wheat, barley and sorghum. Prices of domestic corn increased sharply throughout 2020 and, in January 2021, were 50 percent above their year-earlier levels. The persistent upward trend is attributed to strong demand from the feed sector following the recovery in the pig production level after the steep ASF-led contraction registered in the previous two years.
Imports of corn are forecast at a record 20 million tonnes in the 2020/21 marketing year (October/September), almost five times the average level. Similarly, imports of other feed crops, namely barley and sorghum
, are forecast at the high level of 7.5 and 6 million tonnes, respectively.
Imports of wheat are also projected to rise at about 10 million tonnes, the highest level since 2004/05. If realized, China's imports in 2020-21 (July-June) will be the highest in more than 25 years, the US Department of Agriculture said in its World Markets and Trade report released Feb. 9. Chinese wheat imports
have been raised for the sixth consecutive month, driven by rising non-food usage, which is also expected at a record 30 million mt in 2020-21, up 10 million mt from the last year, USDA said. "Although most wheat imports are allocated toward human consumption, their relatively low import prices compared [with] China's domestic corn prices
make wheat attractive for feed use in China's southern region," USDA noted. France emerged as the largest supplier to China in the first half of the 2020-21 marketing season, as prices of French imported wheat averaged $270/mt, $160/mt lower than domestic corn, and $120/mt cheaper than domestic wheat
, according to USDA.