China set to increase corn imports due to weather losses

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China is likely to import a record volume of corn in the next marketing year, as the world’s second-largest consumer takes advantage of a fall in global prices and after the domestic crop suffered damage from mould and wet weather delayed plantings.

Imports are expected to reach between six and seven million tonnes in the 2013-14 marketing year beginning Oct. 1, according to estimates by three major industry analysts, surpassing a previous record of 5.2 million tonnes in 2012-13.

Stronger Chinese corn imports could push up U.S. futures, which have fallen since hitting a record high last summer due to a U.S. drought. Chicago Board of trade prices dropped to a nine-month low of $6.26-1/2 a bushel on April 5.

“U.S. new crop prices are pretty cheap, which will trigger imports both by feed mills and state-owned firms,” said Li Qiang, a senior analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence (JCI), a private consultancy.

The estimated import volume accounts for less than four per cent of China’s overall consumption. Feed mills and corn processors consume about 17 million tonnes a month.

Since February, China has already purchased 1.3 million tonnes of U.S. corn to be harvested after September and feed mills would continue buying, traders said.

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