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China’s corn buying spree could affect local wheat prices

UPDATED: Wed., April 21, 2021

Corn grows in a field in Princeton, Ill., in September 2020. Corn prices have surged as China purchases more corn. Prices for wheat have also climbed because China is expected to purchase more wheat due to the high price for corn.   (Bloomberg)
Corn grows in a field in Princeton, Ill., in September 2020. Corn prices have surged as China purchases more corn. Prices for wheat have also climbed because China is expected to purchase more wheat due to the high price for corn.  (Bloomberg)
By Kim Chapman</p><p> and Michael Hirtzer Bloomberg

China’s appetite for the world’s corn is expected to soar to a record this year as the Asian nation grapples with a grain shortfall.

Corn prices in Chicago surged to a nearly eight-year high after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beijing office lifted its forecast for China’s corn imports by 17% to 28 million metric tons for the marketing year ending in September.

If realized, it would be a record, according to Bloomberg data going back six decades.

China is expected to rely more on rice and wheat stocks in the next season due to the high price of corn.

Still, corn demand isn’t expected to change “until late calendar year 2021 or 2022 at the earliest,” the statement said.

China, the world’s biggest pork producer, is contending with a grain supply pinch as it works to feed hogs recovering from a deadly virus.

While its goal is to boost reliance on domestic crops, the Asian nation is still expected to buy up 15 million tons of the world’s corn in the new season starting in October, according to the USDA.

That would be the second-biggest year on record.

“Sources indicate that substantial corn imports will be necessary to control further price increases and maintain buffer stocks throughout calendar year 2021,” the agency’s attache said Wednesday in a statement.

Corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade climbed as much as 1.4% on Wednesday to $6.005 a bushel, the highest since May 2013.

Prices have nearly doubled in the past year as China scooped up massive amounts of the grain to replenish pig herds that were decimated by the deadly African swine fever.

Fresh outbreaks of the deadly virus have emerged, triggering concern that China’s demand for feed imports may wane and cool the biggest crop futures rally in almost a decade.

In other markets, soybeans and wheat rose.

On Wednesday, all wheat varieties were trading at steady or higher levels.

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