March 16, 2017 / 10:28 AM / 3 years ago

Japan feedmakers say worst is over in corn supply crunch

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese feedmakers, hit by a severe shortage of corn due to delays in shipments from the United States, say the crisis has eased and small cargoes of corn brought from China this month are likely to be the last for a while.

FILE PHOTO: A harvester unloads corn to a cargo truck at a farm in Gaocheng, Hebei province, China, in this September 30, 2015 file picture. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

At least one small cargo of corn that trading company Mitsubishi Corp has purchased from China’s COFCO Corp [CNCOF.UL] arrived at a Japanese port last week, four sources with knowledge of the deal told Reuters.

The emergency deal marked the first sale of corn from the world’s No. 2 producer to the world’s biggest importer since 2010.

“We’ve seen the worst shortage in decades, but it seems the worst is nearly over although it may take until April or May to see inventories back to normal,” a source at a Japanese feedmaker said, citing an improvement in U.S. shipments.

“I think trading houses won’t need to buy expensive corn from China any further,” he said.

Blizzards, avalanches and heavy rain in the northwestern United States early this year snarled transportation of corn, soy and wheat to ports, causing lengthy delays to crop loadings in Japan’s main corn supplier.

Mitsubishi bought about 15,000 tonnes of corn from the state-controlled Chinese company COFCO and at least one cargo of the grain arrived at Shibushi port in Kyushu, southern Japan, last week, three sources briefed on the deal said.

Another feedmaker source said his company has received and used some of the supplies brought from China by Mitsubishi.

“We had some concerns over quality as they may have been stored for a long time, but the ones we’ve received had no quality problem as they were checked by Mitsubishi before shipment,” he said. He asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Japanese trading company Marubeni Corp also bought about 5,000-6,000 tonnes of corn from China that is expected to arrive at Taniyama port in Kyushu this week, a source at another feedmaker said.

Japan last imported 23,702 tonnes of feed corn from China in 2010, according to trade data, and its new purchases come as China intensifies efforts to tackle a massive glut of the grain.

Small volumes of corn were also imported from Vladivostok, Russia, by Mitsui & Co Ltd and Marubeni, two trader sources said.

Mitsubishi, Marubeni and Mitsui declined to comment on the deals.

Faced with falling inventories, feedmakers in top importer Japan tapped at least 330,000 tonnes of corn from emergency stockpiles last month.

Japan imported a bit over 10 million tonnes of feed corn in 2016, according to official trade data.

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue

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