(Recasts top two paragraphs)
* China buys more U.S. new crop, totalling about 600,000 T
* Large buyers and state-owned COFCO, Sinograin on hold
* China's top animal feed producer wants import curbs eased
By Niu Shuping and Lucy Hornby
BEIJING, March 12 China has added to purchases
of the U.S. corn crop that is due to be harvested after
September, taking total orders since February to about 600,000
tonnes, traders said.
Private animal feed mills, which had already bought 240,000
tonnes in late February, purchased the additional cargoes in
response to relatively high domestic prices in China, the
world's second-largest corn consumer.
Traders said large buyers, such as state-owned COFCO, are
holding back from big purchases as they wait for U.S. corn
prices to fall further, while Sinograin, the manager of China's
state reserves, may also turn to the United States after its
domestic restocking programme ends on April 30.
Sinograin is currently buying only from the domestic market,
but it bought more than 6 million tonnes of U.S. corn in late
2011 and early 2012 to replenish low state reserves.
The Chicago Board of Trade December corn futures contract
, which tracks the crop harvested this fall, lost 7.1
percent over the first two months of 2013, in the second worst
winter performance for the new crop contract in a decade.
But the declines have failed to dent growers' enthusiasm for
planting the feed grain this spring, said farmers in the United
States, the world's largest corn exporter.
Sinograin has not been restocking at full tilt because
domestic prices are hovering above government-set stockpile
prices, company president Bao Kexin told reporters last week on
the sidelines of the annual parliament session, but declined to
The stockpile plan will end on April 30, and Beijing has set
a price of 2,100 to 2,140 yuan per tonne, but physical prices
<0#ASCORN-CN> in the northeast reached as high as 2,260 yuan per
tonne on Tuesday.
Bao also declined to say whether the company would continue
to import corn this year, adding that such decisions require
government approval. State stockpiles are higher now than last
"We expect Sinograin will import again this year if it
cannot buy enough at home. U.S. new corn prices are very cheap
and attractive for the company," said one corn trader.
U.S. pre-tax corn prices were about 23 percent below
domestic rates in the port city of Shenzhen. Even with import
and value-added taxes included, the U.S. new corn price is about
14 percent lower.
New Hope Group, China's largest producer of animal feed,
urged Beijing to issue more corn import quotas to benefit pig
breeders and meet rising demand for animal protein as more
people move to urban centres.
"For feedgrains of soy and corn, control over imports should
be relaxed, or if necessary, more import quotas should be issued
or even the quota restriction scrapped," Liu Yonghao, chairman
and founder of the group, told reporters on the sidelines of
annual parliament session.
China, the world's largest soy importer, buys about 60
percent of globally traded soybeans.
Traders do not expect Beijing to lift corn quota curbs soon,
but the government may be willing to issue more quotas to
state-owned firms under its World Trade Organisation
China sets its annual corn import quota at 7.2 million
tonnes, 60 percent of which is allocated to state
firms.. China imported 5.2 million tonnes of corn
in 2012, a record, but imports remain only a small part of the
total, amounting to about two weeks of domestic consumption.
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)