China says corn crop 20 percent bigger after overhauling years of data

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, the world’s No. 2 corn producer, sharply revised higher its corn output data for the past 10 years, a move that should have wide repercussions for global supply and demand scenarios.

FILE PHOTO: Farmers unload freshly harvested corn cobs from a corn harvester at a farm in Bozhou, Anhui province, China September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The data overhaul follows last year’s agricultural census, China’s first in 10 years, which led the National Statistics Bureau to revise a broad swathe of data, a bureau official said on Thursday.

The data was published in the bureau’s China Statistics Yearbook for 2018, which was made available for sale last month.

It shows corn output in 2017 rose to 259 million tons, a 20 percent increase from the 215.9 million tons that China had originally reported for the crop.

The new data was highlighted by the official think tank China National Grain and Oils Information Center (CNGOIC) in its monthly report earlier this week.

Officials in the bureau’s agriculture department could not be reached to explain the large jump in corn output.

Some farms in the northeast were not included in the previous data, said Feng Lichen, chief analyst with, an agriculture consultancy.

A second analyst, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that many farms in northeast China had not been registered with the central government previously because the land had only been cultivated relatively recently.’s Feng added that demand was likely higher too, and did not expect any change to ending stocks.

Data for the bean crop, which includes all kinds of legumes but largely consists of soybeans, was revised down slightly for recent years’ harvests.

The sharp increase in the size of last year’s crop comes after China has sold off much of its huge state stockpiles of corn, prompting expectations that it would soon need to start importing larger volumes of the grain.

Beijing has also said it is going to launch a nationwide ethanol mandate that would require adding 10 percent ethanol to the gasoline fuel supply, which will mean adding more corn-based ethanol supplies.

The CNGOIC report said that the statistics bureau had increased the planted acreage for corn last year from 35.5 million hectares (87.7 million acres) to 42.4 million hectares. Yields were also up slightly to 6.1 tons per hectare from 6.09 tons per hectare.

The 2016 corn crop was revised up to 263 million tons, and 2015 data was changed to 265 million tons, the highest ever.

CNGOIC said it expects the 2018/19 crop to increase by 0.05 percent to 259 million tons.

The estimate is sharply higher than the agriculture ministry’s most recent forecast of 215 million tons.

CNGOIC also raised its estimate for consumption to 292.9 million tons, leaving a deficit for the year of 30.7 million tons.

Reporting by Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; editing by David Evans and Christian Schmollinger