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UPDATE 1-China's corn, wheat imports in 2020 reach record highs

 (Adds outlook for 2021)
    BEIJING, Jan 18 (Reuters) - China's grains imports soared to
record highs in 2020, customs data showed on Monday, after tight
domestic corn supplies pushed prices to multi-year peaks,
driving demand for cheaper imports.
    China, the world's top agricultural market, bought a record
11.3 million tonnes of imported corn last year, including 2.25
million tonnes in December alone, according to General
Administration of Customs data.
    Corn imports in 2020 were more than double the previous
year's volume and exceeded their annual quota, which was set at
7.2 million tonnes, for the first time. 
    China also imported a record 8.38 million tonnes of wheat,
against a quota of 9.64 million tonnes. 
    In 2019, China only used 67% of its annual quota for corn
and one-third of its quota for wheat.
    China has accelerated buying of global grains in the past
year due to healthy demand from a recovering pig sector, and a
domestic shortfall in corn supplies.
    Imports are expected to remain high this year for similar
reasons, buyers and analysts said.
    "Domestic corn prices are too high. We will continue to buy
alternatives including imported corn, wheat and barley," said a
manager with a major feed and pig producer in southern China. 
    Chinese corn futures have rallied 40% in the past
two months and hit record highs last week.   
    The country's corn supplies tightened after it sold off once
mammoth reserves, while typhoons hurt the new harvest.
    "It is widely expected China's corn imports in the 2020/21
marketing year will exceed 30 million tonnes," said a source
with a global shipping firm.  
    High corn prices also pushed feed producers to stock up on
domestic wheat as a substitute.
        
The table below shows imports of China's major agriculture
products in December. Data on soybean imports was released
earlier this month.     
 Commodity  Dec 2020      % change   Jan-Dec 2020  % change
            (tonnes)      y/y*       (tonnes)      y/y*
 Corn           2.25 mln        207  11.3 mln          135.7
 Wheat           880,000       77.5  8.38 mln          140.2
 Barley          980,000      309.8  8.08 mln           36.3
 Sorghum         550,000    1,358.7  4.81 mln          478.6
 Pork            440,000       63.1  4.39 mln          108.3
 Sugar           910,000      324.7  5.27 mln           55.5
    

 (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Tom Daly; Editing by Edmund Blair
and David Evans)
  
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