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Economy & Business

China Expects A Record Corn Harvest, But Midwest Farmers Need Not Worry

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Jonathan Ahl
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St. Louis Public Radio
Corn like this in a northern Missouri field may still find a robust market in China, despite that country's bumper crop.

China’s corn output this year is expected to be a record for the country, but that won’t have a noticeable effect on Midwestern farmers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, China will produce 273 million metric tons, up 5% from last year and the biggest corn harvest ever.

But Midwest corn producers aren’t worried.

“It’s a fairly small percentage increase. And whenever you look at China’s expected percentage use of increase in feed grains, it really negates that and makes that even smaller,” said Bradley Shad, CEO of the Missouri Corn Growers Association.

China’s rapid increase in corn demand is fueled by its pork industry and its efforts to eradicate African swine fever among pigs. Specifically, the country outlawed feeding restaurant scraps to hogs, so farmers began using more corn.

China increased its capacity to grow corn in response.

“I would expect that increase in Chinese production to drop the Chinese domestic price a little bit,” said Collin Watters, director of exports and logistics with the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “I still think they are going to be in the market for world corn going forward.”

Part of that market could stem from efforts to rebuild China’s strategic stockpile of grain, which the country has drawn down in recent years.

“I think there’s probably a compelling argument to be made that those strategic reserves should be replenished,” Watters said. “That may also contribute to imports.”

Watters said China imported more than 21 million metric tons of corn from the United States last year. In the marketing year that started Sept. 1, China has already booked the purchase of 12 million metric tons of corn, and experts expect that number to go up by at least 5 million tons by the end of the year.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

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