China to become largest corn importer by 2020

corn-Zeeshan Qureshi sxc.huChina is expected to account for 40 per cent of the rise in global corn trade over the next decade. (Image source: Zeeshan Qureshi/sxc.hu)China is set to become the world’s largest corn importer by 2020, according to USDA reports

The country, which is already the world’s leading importer of soyabeans, will overtake Japan in 2020 at the top of the corn purchasing leaderboard. The USDA has projected that the world’s most populous country will leapfrog South Korea as the third top corn importer in 2017 and take Mexico’s number two spot in 2019.

China’s corn imports, which are currently five million tonnes, are projected to rise to about 16m tonnes by the end of the decade and 22mn tonnes by 2023/24 as increased demand for meat fuels the need for livestock feed.

China will also increase its pork, poultry and beef output to reach 90mn tonnes by 2023/24, a rise of about 30 per cent from 2012, USDA added.

James Hansen and Fred Gale, authors of the USDA report China in the Next Decade: Rising Meat Demand and Growing Imports of Feed, said, “Since about three kg of feed are needed to produce each kilogramme of meat, feeding a large and increasing population of animals will be a growing challenge.”

The sharp rise in meat demand underlines the country’s need to secure grain imports and also explain recent transactions by COFCO (China National Cereals, Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation) where the state-owned group is paying between US$1bn to US$2bn for a stake in a sugar, soyabean and wheat joint ventures with Noble Group, and separately purchased a controlling stake in Dutch agricultural trading house Nidera valued at about US$1.3bn.

China is expected to account for 40 per cent of the rise in global corn trade over the next decade, as well as increase its share of soyabean imports to 70 per cent from the current 65 per cent.

US corn producers are expected to be the main beneficiaries of China’s appetite for corn imports, but other exporters such as Ukraine, Argentina and Brazil will also play key roles, according to the USDA.

Apart from corn and soyabeans, Chinese animals also consume a variety of other grains, protein meals, bran and hulls from grains, and growing use of these commodities is expected to support the expansion of meat output.

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