TOKYO/HONG KONG -- Japan imported China-grown corn for livestock feed for the first time since February 2010 in March in order to ease shortages, according to the Japanese Ministry of Finance.
Japanese livestock farms have suffered from a shortage of grain after heavy snowstorms in January and February caused massive export delays in the U.S. -- the world's leading grain producer. Delays to imports sparked concern among Japanese livestock farmers that the corn supply could dry up and pushed Japanese trading houses to import the grain from China. Import volume from China totaled 17,935 tons in March.
Japanese animal feed manufacturers are happy to see Chinese corn return for the first time in almost seven years. "The quality was surprisingly good," said one fodder maker.
This is good news for China too, where the government is struggling with overstocked corn. Inventories, which the government had bought from farmers at high prices, have grown to as much as 150 million to 250 million tons.
Nevertheless, many Japanese producers see imports from China as nothing more than a stopgap. Prices of Chinese corn in March stood at around 27,600 yen ($248.10) per ton -- 20% more than American corn, and 40% more than Brazilian. "Considering the price of Chinese corn, import is a temporary solution to meet the shortage. We are not planning to keep using Chinese corn at this price," said a major feed company.
Nikkei staff writer Mariko Tai in Hong Kong contributed to this story.