Chinese farmers have greatly increased maize plantings this year at the expense of soya bean and other crops, including sorghum and edible beans.
This was in an attempt to cash in on record prices fuelled by strong demand. It was expected that this trend would reduce the country’s recent strong demand for maize imports going into next year.
Market analysts forecast that this expansion could boost China’s maize output in the 2021/2022 season by at least 6%.
Last year, strong demand for feed in the pig production sector led to China’s demand for maize extending well beyond local production and resulted in 26 million tons of maize being imported.
Li, a farmer in the northern Heibei province, who declined to give his full name, told Reuters that he was going to plant only maize this year, foregoing other crops. Last year he grew millet on about one third of the 20ha of land he managed.
“Maize prices jumped so high last year. Profits would be good,” he said.
According to Reuters, consistent and accurate data on China’s crop output was difficult to find, especially since the unexplained suspension of Beijing-based private agriculture information provider Cofeed in April.
Due to Cofeed being offline, and other consultancies reluctant to express views on crop volumes that differ too widely from government estimates often considered conservative, market participants were increasingly reliant on anecdotal evidence for information.
Shanghai-based consultancy JCI forecasted a 6,2% increase, or about 14,9 million tons, in maize output in the 2021/2022 season to 253,9 million tons, the highest level in four years, Reuters said.
Based on surveys among farmers and other industry players such as seed sellers, JCI estimated that the area planted to maize would expand by 3,9% to 42 million hectares.
“Maize prices are high and benefits are good. People still think there will be a maize shortage this year, while livestock farming is recovering,” said JCI analyst Rosa Wang.
“Farmers have very high enthusiasm in growing maize. The government also encourages more planting of maize.”
In the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, the country’s top maize and soya bean production area, farmers had planted 27% more maize than a year ago, according to Zhang Zhidong, an analyst at the Huatai Futures Exchange.
Imports of maize have long been restricted in China through a system of low-tariff quotas that historically totalled about seven million tons annually.
However, the surge in maize prices last year outstripped international prices by so much that importers could still bring in maize, pay the full tariff and make a profit, Reuters said.