* China stepping up checks on U.S. sorghum cargoes -traders
* Could slash imports of the corn-substitute
* Has already rejected more than 1 mln T of U.S. corn
By Niu Shuping and Dominique Patton
BEIJING, Aug 21 Chinese authorities are stepping
up checks on U.S. cargoes of sorghum, traders said, potentially
curbing shipments from the world's largest exporter of the
Four traders with direct knowledge of the matter said the
country's quarantine office last month asked local authorities
to tighten checks of sorghum and barley, looking for impurities
such as pesticide residues and heavy metals.
A quarantine bureau spokesman declined to make immediate
The move comes after China has already rejected more than 1
million tonnes of U.S. corn due to the presence of genetically
modified strain that has not been approved by Beijing.
Chinese feed mills have increasingly been turning to U.S.
sorghum as a cheap substitute for domestic corn <0#DCC:>, which
has seen prices inflated as Beijing supports the country's rural
"There are worries in the market, which should reduce
imports of sorghum in later months," said Zhang Yan, an analyst
at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Ltd (JCI).
JCI cut its forecast for sorghum imports to 1.6 million
tonnes for the 2014/15 marketing year, down from 3.9 million
tonnes predicted earlier.
China is the world's largest importer of U.S. sorghum, with
its feed mills buying almost all their sorghum from the country.
"Shipments already booked or on the way to China may have no
problem, but bookings after the notice may face trouble," said
another industry source, who declined to be named as he is not
authorised to speak with media.
"Some of the major buyers have already been informed of
strict checks," said the source.
Sorghum is traditionally used to make alcohol in China but
use in animal feed surged last year as the industry sought to
diversify ingredient supplies and replace expensive domestic
Some big buyers contacted by Reuters said they were adopting
a 'wait-and-see' approach to any further sorghum purchases.
"It is still unclear if quarantine authorities are testing
every shipment. They could really make things go crazy as they
did for DDGS," said a trader with a large buyer in south China.
China has stopped issuing import permits and demands
certification that imported distillers' grains (DDGs), a
by-product of corn-based ethanol, do not contain the MIR 162 GMO
Another large buyer in the southern province of Guangdong
said it had stopped placing new orders but declined to say why.
China's quarantine authority has also asked ports to step up
screening of alfalfa imports this month after cargoes of hay
from three U.S. suppliers were found to contain unapproved GMO
varieties, according to a notice on a government website.
U.S. alfalfa imports have seen rapid growth in recent years
to meet demand from China's fast expanding dairy herd.
(Editing by Joseph Radford)