The U.S. Grains Council projects lower corn yields in China for 2009 compared to 2008, with total production resulting in 148.79 million metric tons (5.86 billion bushels). Cary Sifferath, USGC senior director in China; Sam Niu; assistant director in China; Erick Erickson, USGC special assistant for planning, evaluation and projects; and Guy Davenport, North Carolina corn grower, toured cornfields in the Northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia and Jilin, China, to assess the corn crop and formulate an estimate of this year’s harvest. The Council’s China Corn Tour is conducted every year in the absence of reliable corn crop estimates from Chinese government authorities. The tour consisted of five groups evaluating nearly 300 cornfields, which includes fields in the Northern China Plain of Anhui, Henan, Hebei and Shandong provinces.

“Our number this year shows a 9.7 percent decrease from China’s National Grain and Oils Information Center’s (CNGOIC) number last year, which was 165.92 million tons (6.53 billion bushels),” Sifferath said. “The drought really affected parts of China’s major corn producing regions, especially in western parts of Jilin and Liaoning provinces and eastern parts of Inner Mongolia province. We project the national yield to be around 79 bushels per acre, compared to CNGOIC’s 2008 figure of 88.5 bushels per acre.”

Sifferath also noted production acreage has been capped as the government is trying to set up regulations to contain the loss of farmland. Any increases in corn acreage are done at the expense of another crop. Despite the undisputed likelihood of a decrease in China’s corn production, there seems to be little sign that China will begin importing corn anytime soon. At the same time, corn exports don’t appear to be likely either. China exported 5.27 million tons (207.47 million bushels) of corn during the 2006/2007 crop year. Since then, there have only been minimal corn exports. Based on China’s expected drop in corn production, it is unlikely significant quantities of corn will be exported during the 2009/2010 crop year.

“Current corn prices in China would make exporting difficult, as Chinese corn is too expensive to compete in the world market today,” said Sifferath. “In fact, the high prices of corn and other feed ingredients is why we are seeing U.S. DDGS (distiller’s dried grains with solubles) exports to China skyrocket in a very short amount of time.”

The Council projects exports of U.S. DDGS to China in 2009 to reach 250,000 to 300,000 tons. This is more than 18 times the 8,000 tons exported in all of 2008. Sifferath expects DDGS exports to continue upward to minimize losses resulting from the high price of corn in China.

Davenport said, as a farmer, this was “truly an eye-opening experience.”

“China’s corn production was not at all what I had expected,” Davenport, who serves as a USGC Asia Advisory Team member and a National Corn Growers Association Corn Board member. “I was amazed at how incredibly efficient Chinese corn growers really are. They may not have the technology we have but they are very good farmers and can be very competitive in the world marketplace.”