July 30, 2020 / 3:17 PM / 12 days ago

U.S. sells record amount of corn to China as tensions rise

FILE PHOTO: Corn is loaded onto a truck as a silo is emptied at a farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Acker

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chinese buyers booked their single biggest purchase of U.S. corn ever, extending their flurry of large purchases of American agricultural goods even as tensions between Washington and Beijing rise.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Thursday morning that private exporters reported the sale of 1.937 million tonnes of corn to China for delivery in the 2020/21 marketing year. That topped the previous biggest deal to China of 1.762 million tonnes, reported just two weeks ago.

In a separate report, the USDA said that soybean export sales to China rose to 1.925 million tonnes in the week ended July 23, the biggest weekly total since Nov. 17, 2016.

The recent purchases place China closer to the ambitious $36.5 billion target for imports of U.S. farm goods this year set in the Phase 1 trade deal. Analysts and traders have said that target may not be quite out of reach, but it is looking like a big, big stretch even with the recent spate of buying.

The corn sale reported on Thursday was valued at around $325 million, based on new-crop prices at the U.S. Gulf. China’s American farm purchases amounted to $6 billion through May - the latest data available - up just 9.1% from the same period in 2019 and 31% below 2017’s level.

China on Thursday accused the United States of stoking a new Cold War ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November. Also on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the Chinese Communist Party “the central threat of our times.”

At 9:40 a.m. CDT (1414 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade December corn futures were up 1-1/2 cents at $3.27-3/4 a bushel after ending the overnight session unchanged. November soybean futures were 4 cents lower at $8.81-1/4.

Reporting by Mark Weinraub; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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