China’s steeply rising imports of corn have thrown world market prices into disarray. The price of the grain hit a nine year high in early May at $7.32 per bushel and remained elevated at more than $6 this week – a price not seen since early 2013.
China’s demand for feed grains has been increasing rapidly as its hog production is rebounding after outbreaks of the African swine fever. This trend has also affected wheat and barley, while demand for soy – also a common animal feed – has remained high since last year. According to the USDA, corn imports into China were up by almost 250 percent in the 2020/21 marketing year, while those of wheat nearly doubled.
China’s rapid increase in wealth means that more people have the means to eat meat, pushing up demand especially for the county’s favorite, pork.
While local farmers are also expanding the area planted with corn, imported corn remains cheaper despite exploding prices, benefitting the U.S. which is a major corn exporter. As for soybeans, Brazil beats the U.S. as the biggest exporters of the product, which ties China’s hunger for feed grains to another global problem: deforestation. According to a report by the WWF, China was through its trade responsible for almost one quarter of global tropical deforestation.