China's Grain Imports Near Historic High in 2024

tendata blogImport News

ten data blog25-03-2024

Despite recent cancellations of large purchases due to global price declines and domestic production shortages, grain and oilseed imports by China, the world's largest agricultural buyer, are expected to remain near historic highs.


The latest customs data shows that wheat imports from Australia to China in January and February nearly quadrupled compared to the same period last year. Even with Beijing canceling or delaying purchases of 1 million metric tons of Australian wheat last week, this trend is expected to continue.


Concerns about softening demand in China were raised following the cancellations of these orders and about 500,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat, as the country's significant role in the global agricultural market could lead to price declines.


However, traders and analysts suggest that the cancellations will not affect overall demand, as lower wheat prices are expected to stimulate purchases, and the government is allocating more funds to increase grain and oilseed inventories.


"The pace at which China is importing wheat and barley from Australia is remarkable," said Ole Houe, Director of Advisory Services at Sydney brokerage firm IKON Commodities.


"They are also purchasing significant amounts of soybeans, corn, and wheat from other origins such as the U.S., France, and Ukraine. The reality is that grain imports will be similar in pace to last year's record-setting levels."


China spent $234 billion on agricultural imports last year, making it the world's largest soybean buyer, importing over 60% of the world's oilseeds, with the majority coming from Brazil and the United States. In recent years, China has also become the largest wheat buyer, especially for high-quality grains, primarily from Australia, Canada, and the United States. Last year, China was the second-largest corn importer, primarily used for animal feed, driven by rising local prices.


Positive crush margins this month have boosted soybean imports, with processors in Rizhao turning a profit of 114.29 yuan ($15.88) per ton, after suffering losses since October. "With ample crops coming to the market and prices falling in Brazil, crush margins in China have improved," said an international grain trader based in Singapore. "We expect purchases to pick up from April onwards, with China's overall imports this year mirroring last year's."


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