Preference for corn by Chinese farmers to result in depressed production of Sorghum and Barley

CHINA – A mix of high prices and government policies encouraging or mandating the planting of additional corn acreage has influenced Chinese farmers into planting more maize at the expense of Sorghum and Barley.  

Area planted to corn in Heilongjiang, one of China’s most important corn producing provinces, increased by 1.1 million hectares this year, or by 27 percent year-over-year, according to the Heilongjiang Agricultural Bureau.  

Nationwide, area planted to corn is expected to increase by 2.1 million hectares this year, or by 6.2 percent year-over-year. 

Due to the increased acreage Chinese corn, production for MY2021/22 is forecast at 272.0 MMT, an increase of 11.3 MMT, or 4.3 percent from last year, according to recent GAIN reports. 

The favor of corn has however meant that other grains, particularly sorghum and barley will see lower output for MY2021/22 due to reduced acreage. 

USDA analysts forecast Chinese Sorghum production in MY2021/22 it fall by 50,000  MT to 3.55 MMT as some sorghum gets to be converted to corn. 

Sorghum imports for MY2021/22 are also forecast at 7.5 MMT, 2.5 MMT lower than the USDA forecast due to availability of other, cheaper substitutes for sorghum. 

Barley is also another grain that is projected to fall in production as farmers opt to plant more corn on their farms.  

Recent GAIN reports forecast production for MY2021/22 to fall by 40,000 tons to 860,000 tons as some barley area gets replaced with corn. 

Barley imports are however projected to increase to 10.5 MMT as its relatively low prices compared to sorghum make a viable alternative in many feeds. 

Chinese hog producers also reported to have a preference feeding barley to sows claiming lower toxins and higher fiber generate lactation. 

Meanwhile, wheat production for MY2021/22 is estimated at 136 MMT, 120 thousand MT higher than the previous year due to increases in yield and planted area. 

Consumption of Wheat is however forecast to drop by 5MMT due to a higher corn supply and a leveling growth in livestock production. 

Milled rice, another important crop in China, is also forecast at 150 MMT, slightly higher than USDA estimates mainly due to expansion of early rice planting area. 

Consumption is, on the other hand, forecast at 158 MMT, 2 MMT higher than the USDA forecast, and is driven by rice’s price advantage for feed. 

Post notes that there remains a concerted effort by PRC officials to manage prices, grain planting and storage levels, and provide support for both industry needs and consumer expectations. 

In an article published by Global Times and highlighted by GAIN in its report, grains, along with petroleum are now uplifted to the level of “strategic weapons.”  

The article went on to note that grains are more vital as it relates to life and that staple grains security is considered a matter of “life and death” for the Chinese public. 

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