US officials, who in May cautioned over the threat of China blocking imports of sorghum, underlined the growing scrutiny of cargos, but forecast that trade in the grain was unlikely to be as significantly affected as was that in corn.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Beijing bureau – which in May warned that Chinese authorities had, in the face of burgeoning domestic corn stocks, “begun to enhance inspections” of imports of rival feed grain sorghum – flagged evidence of cargos coming under closer scrutiny.
“Quarantine and inspection officials reported they intercepted multiple sorghum shipments” in the first four months of the year, in six ports, the bureau said.
The bureau flagged findings by authorities of weed seeds and of phoma glomerata, a fungal infection of as number of agricultural commodities, from grains to wool.
In Zhanjiang port alone, in south west China, authorities had intercepted 37 shipments of US sorghum over claims of detection of unauthorised weeds.
“The detections have caused concern among sorghum traders,” the bureau said, adding that “there is a risk of more detections and interceptions in summer, when many existing sorghum orders are expected to be fulfilled”.
While exporters have shipped 6.73m tonnes of sorghum so far in 2014-15, which started last September, a further 1.16m tonnes are set to be shipped over the next two months, according to US Department of Agriculture data.
The comment comes days after the International Grains Council highlighted “reports of stricter customs checks” by Chinese officials, who are said to have rejected a cargo of Australian sorghum.
However, the USDA bureau, maintaining at 9.0m tonnes its forecast for Chinese sorghum imports in 2015-16 offered comfort that the grain “is unlikely to suffer widespread trade disruptions like those that hit corn and DDGs [distillers’ grains] trade in 2014”.
Chinese authorities rejected a series of corn and distillers’ grains cargos last year over claims of detecting traces of a Syngenta genetically modified corn variety which, as of then, had not been approved by Beijing.
‘Strained storage capacity’
The bureau’s comments came despite an assessment that China’s corn stocks will end 2015-16 even higher than previously thought, at 92.9m tonnes, some 2.0m tonnes above the USDA’s official estimate, and a 15-year high.
The expanding inventories are believed to have prompted some officials to press for measures to curtail feed grain imports, to encourage users to direct demand at domestic corn instead.
The stocks upgrade reflected ideas of a 230.0m-tonne Chinese corn harvest, again 2.0m tonnes above the official estimate from the USDA, which will on July 10 update its world crop supply and demand data with the release of its monthly Wasde report.
“The rapid increase in corn stocks has strained grain storage capacity, and large amounts of grain are being kept in inadequate or antiquated storage facilities,” said the bureau, noting a government announcement two weeks ago of plans to build 50m tonnes in grain storage.
However, the bureau downgraded its estimate for China’s wheat production by 2.0m tonnes to 128.0m tonnes, citing a slower growth in sowings this year than previously thought.
“A 2015-16 seeding survey covering 110,000 producers found wheat seeding acreage was 0.7% higher than 2014-15.”
However, the smaller production will not warrant a rise in wheat imports in 2015-16 above the 1.2m tonnes previously expected, the bureau added.
In fact, Chinese wheat imports are largely dictated by quality rather than quantity, with the rain-affected 2013 crop, for instance, producing more than enough wheat, by volume, to meet demand, but requiring buy-ins of 6.78m tonnes.
(Source – http://www.agrimoney.com/news/us-officials-flag-growing-chinese-sorghum-cargo-scrutiny–8521.html)