China's corn crop this year is expected to reach a record high of more than 180 million tonnes, according to a senior expert from a State think tank.
However the fast-growing domestic demand for corn means that the bigger harvest is unlikely to offset the surging corn imports, which will probably show a "mild and stable increase" over the next few years, said Xu Xiaoqing, the director of the Department for Rural Economic Development at the Development Research Center of the State Council, a top State think tank.
"Despite natural disasters this year, it is still quite possible to achieve an increased corn yield. Weather permitting, this year's corn harvest could even beat expectations," Xu said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.
"But domestic demand for corn in animal feed and for processing is also growing rapidly. China will have a tight balance of corn in the domestic market for the next few years," he added.
A monthly forecast released in August by Grain.gov.cn, a website operated by the China National Grain and Oils Information Center, predicted corn production this year would rise to 182.5 million tonnes, up 3% on last year.
China uses 105 million tons of corn a year for animal feed, with another 60 million to 70 million tons used in the processing sector for such products as starch, citric acid and ethanol. Increased meat consumption in China has generated extra demand for corn as animal feed. Also, industrial demand for starch and ethanol is increasing, putting upward pressure on corn imports.
According to the General Administration of Customs, corn imports in 2010 were a record high of 1.57 million tonnes, 17.6 times that of the previous year. However imports accounted for less than 1%t of the nation's bulk domestic production, and the percentage is likely to remain very small, posing no challenge to the China's corn self-sufficiency, Xu said.
In July, China ordered 533,400 tons of corn from the United States, exceeding the US estimate of the country's corn imports for the whole year. China ordered another 55,900 tons of US corn in August.