BEIJING, May 21 (Reuters) - China’s imports of distillers dried grains (DDGs) hit a record high in April, with bargain-hunting buyers undeterred by government efforts to block shipments that contain unapproved genetically-modified organisms (GMO).
China imported 613,678 tonnes of DDGs, a protein-rich by-product of corn-based ethanol which is used as feed for livestock, a rise of 252 percent from a year ago and up 40.6 percent from March.
The April volume brought the country’s total imports for the first four months of the year to more than 2 million tonnes, accounting for just over half of the total imports for all of last year.
Almost all of the country’s imports come from the United States. Since late December, however, China has turned away more than 2,000 tonnes of U.S. DDGs due to the presence of MIR 162, a GMO strain developed by Syngenta AG not yet approved for import by China’s agriculture ministry.
China’s quarantine authorities have recently subjected DDGs imports from the United States to greater scrutiny, forcing some shipments to be diverted to other countries, mainly in southeast Asia, traders said. A small volume has already been sold to Thailand, said one.
Quarantine authorities also required buyers to remove some 250,000 tonnes of U.S. DDGs stored at Chinese ports, which had been rejected by quarantine authorities, according to Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Ltd (JCI).
“Quarantine authorities in Qingdao ask buyers to take away those goods. They are not allowed to clear new shipments if they do not take away those already turned away,” said Shi Wei, one analyst with JCI.
Qingdao is the country’s largest port for DDGs.
“Future imports still depend on how strict local authorities are implementing the policy,” said Shi.
China’s imports of U.S. DDGs are likely to hit a record high in the current marketing year ending September, driven by robust domestic animal feed demand and cheap U.S. prices, industry analysts have estimated.
Chinese feed mills use DDGs as a substitute for corn and meal in livestock feed rations.
Official data also showed China imported 93,062 tonnes of corn in April, down 77.8 percent on year, mainly from Ukraine and Thailand.
China has rejected more than 1 million tonnes of U.S. corn due to MIR 162 since rejecting a first cargo in November. (Editing by Tom Hogue)