UPDATE 1-China grain imports to rise, India eyes more exports

Thu Jun 7, 2012 8:10pm IST

* Sinograin sees 12/13 China soy imports at 57.5 MT, corn at 7 MT

* State firm says feed, industrial demand to outpace higher corn crop

* Indian official says wheat export surplus 5-6 million tonnes

* Indian wheat stocks hit record as tender decision awaited (Combines earlier stories on China, India; adds detail)

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) - China will import more corn and soybeans next season to keep pace with growing domestic demand, while fellow emerging giant India is trying to export more of its record wheat and rice crops to reduce its surplus, officials said on Thursday.

China, already the world's largest soybean importer, is expected to increase its imports of the oilseed to 57.5 million tonnes in 2012/13 from 55 million in the current season, the state-owned China Grain Reserves Corporation (Sinograin) said.

That is partly due to expectations for a smaller domestic crop this year, forecast to drop to 14 million tonnes from 14.5 million in 2011/12, Bingzhou Cheng, director-general of Sinograin's general affairs department, told the International Grains Council's (IGC) annual conference.

Corn imports by China were projected to rise to 5 million tonnes from 3.5 million in 2011/12, with a forecast rise in the local crop to be outstripped by rising industrial and animal-feed demand, he said.

"It is foreseeable that corn consumption in China will maintain rapid growth," he said, speaking via an interpreter.

Booming demand for corn, mainly to feed livestock reared to meet rising meat demand in China, has become a focal point for global grain markets.

Other forecasters see China's corn imports needs as bigger than Sinograin's estimate, with the China National Grain and Oils Information Center (CNGOIC) last month forecasting 6 million tonnes in 2012/13 and the IGC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture both projecting 7 million tonnes.

INDIA SEEKS MORE EXPORTS

As a sign of mounting industrial demand for grains, use of grains and soybeans for animal-feed making and other industries exceeded that for food for the first time in 2011, Cheng said.

Sinograin forecasts a higher Chinese corn crop of 192.5 million tonnes this year, up slightly from 191.75 million in 2011, as record local prices encouraged farmers to plant more, he said.

The soybean crop would fall to 14 million tonnes from 14.5 million.

India is aiming to export more of an estimated wheat export surplus of five to six million tonnes after shipping about one million tonnes so far this season, an official with India's Department of Food and Public Distribution said on Thursday.

India is currently holding a tender to export wheat from its public stocks as the country tries to lighten reserves swollen by a record crop last year.

Wheat inventory at government warehouses surged to a record 50.2 million tonnes on June 1, raising concerns a significant amount of grain will rot.

Nilambuj Sharan, a director at the Department of Food and Public Distribution, told the IGC conference that India expected to remain in surplus for grains in the coming years.

"If there is any surplus, exports are allowed," he said.

Indian government sources have said there have been talks about possible wheat exports to Iran under a bilateral deal with the sanctions-hit country, but Sharan said he was not aware of any special export arrangements for Iran.

India has also exported five million tonnes of rice so far in 2011/12 and had the potential to export more after a record crop in 2011, he said. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Nigel Hunt; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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