August 23, 2018 / 7:30 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-China's July grain imports plunge as tariffs on U.S. supplies bite

(Adding details and analyst comments)

BEIJING, Aug 23 (Reuters) - China’s grain imports plunged in July after Beijing imposed hefty tariffs on shipments from the United States as part of its trade conflict and as rising international prices curbed buying, customs data showed on Thursday.

China brought in 220,000 tonnes of sorghum in July, down 62.5 percent from 588,364 tonnes a year ago, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

The imports were also below June’s 450,000 tonnes, when buyers scooped up U.S. cargoes amid a temporary easing of the Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

The customs figures do not give a country by country breakdown, but China imports almost all of its sorghum from the United States.

Thursday’s data also showed China took in 330,000 tonnes of corn in July, down 63.7 percent from last year. China’s wheat imports last month also slid 43.03 percent from a year earlier to 140,000 tonnes.

China imports one-third of its corn and wheat from the United States, according to customs data.

“Two factors were at play. On one hand, international prices have jumped as major producers were expecting lower output,” said Cherry Zhang, analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Ltd.

“On the other hand, the Sino-U.S. trade war curbed buying grains from the U.S.,” Zhang said.

Corn futures in Chicago rose 7.4 percent from the day the tariffs went into effect on July 6 to the end of the month while wheat futures gained 9.8 percent over the same period.

Beijing in May dropped an anti-dumping probe on U.S. sorghum, as well as a requirement for a 178.6 percent deposit on the value of shipments, when it appeared the two countries were resolving their trade issues.

However, China on July 6 imposed 25 percent tariffs on a list of U.S. products including sorghum, corn and soybeans in response to American duties on a list of Chinese products levied earlier that day.

China brought in 600,000 tonnes of barley in July, down 16.2 percent from a year earlier, according to the data.

China’s pork imports in July were at 88,163 tonnes while sugar imports in the same month increased more than 300 percent to 250,000 tonnes, the data showed.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Josephine Mason; editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger

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