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UPDATE 3-China says 2020 corn output barely changed from last year

    * Corn output 260.67 mln T vs 260.77 mln - statistics bureau
    * Analysts had been expecting big drop, some question data
    * China's wheat, rice and soybean production all rise 

 (Adds second analyst comment, link to CASDE, prices)
    By Dominique Patton
    BEIJING, Dec 10 (Reuters) - China produced 260.67 million
tonnes of corn in 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics said
on Thursday, barely changed from last year despite weather
damage before the harvest in the world's second biggest
producer.
    Corn output is being closely watched as a growing deficit in
the country drives prices to multi-year highs, boosting imports
to record levels and fuelling the purchase of other grains.

    The grain is a key raw material in animal feed for China's
huge livestock sector and is also used in industrial products. 
    Analysts were expecting the harvest to fall by up to 10
million tonnes after typhoons flattened crops in parts of the
northeastern corn belt, adding to supply concerns as Beijing has
run down its massive stockpiles in recent years.
    But Beijing has repeatedly sought to soothe such concerns,
saying output would not be hit, and this year's harvest was on a
par with the 260.77 million tonnes produced last year.
    "Although floods and typhoons in some areas had a certain
impact on production, all localities have strengthened field
management and actively took measures to prevent and reduce
disasters," the statistics bureau said in a statement.
    Some analysts, however, doubted the corn numbers.
    "It seems too high. The sown area is pretty much exactly the
same as last year and so is the yield. But the northeast was hit
with three typhoons in a row," said Darin Friedrichs, a senior
Asia commodity analyst at StoneX.
    Output was probably down about 5 million tonnes, estimated
Meng Jinhui, analyst at Shengda Futures, because of the
challenging weather conditions during the year.
    China's agriculture ministry, meanwhile, estimated that
2020/21 output rose to 264 million tonnes.     
    Corn futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange have
cooled slightly since the harvest began, and after the exchange
warned investors about excess volatility in the market, but are
still at multi-year highs of 2,606 yuan ($398) per tonne.
    Production of China's food staples wheat and rice rose, the
statistics bureau data showed. 
    Beijing doubled down on its focus on food security, urging
farmers to finish spring planting on time even as the country
was emerging from a coronavirus lockdown earlier this year.

    China's wheat output came to 134.25 million tonnes, up
marginally from 133.59 million tonnes last year, while rice
production rose 1.1% to 211.86 million tonnes.
    The area planted with rice increased more than 5%, the
statistics bureau said, after the government stepped up its
support for one of China's staples after the pandemic began.
    Output of soybeans increased 8.3% to 19.6 million tonnes.
    The total grain planting area increased 0.6% to 116.8
million hectares, according to the statistics bureau. 
    Major crop output in millions of tonnes, National Bureau of
Statistics:
    
               2019      2020  Percentage change
 Corn        260.77    260.67              -0.04
 Wheat       133.59    134.25                0.5
 Rice         209.6    211.86                1.1
 Soybeans      18.1      19.6                8.3
 ($1 = 6.5466 Chinese yuan renminbi)

 (Reporting by Min Zhang and Dominique Patton; Editing by Arun
Koyyur and David Clarke)
  
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