WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture’s 24-hour reporting service said China in two transactions purchased a total of 2,380,000 tonnes of US corn for delivery in 2020-21. The first sale of 1,156,000 tonnes was announced on March 16, and the second sale of 1,224,000 tonnes was announced on March 17. These were the first large Chinese corn purchases in several weeks and brought the total for US corn sales to China for 2020-21 to more than 21 million tonnes.

The purchases came on the eve of high-level talks between the United States and China scheduled to take place March 18-19 in Alaska. It will be the first meeting of the nations’ senior diplomats since the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January.

The transactions increased Chinese purchases of US corn for delivery in the current marketing year to at least 21,118,600 tonnes, given exports and undelivered sales of US corn to China for 2020-21 totaled 18,738,600 tonnes in the most recent USDA weekly Export Sales report covering the period from Sept. 1, 2020, to March 4, 2021. Chinese purchases of US corn in 2019-20, in contrast, were negligible totaling about 61,000 tonnes through March 4, 2020.

Last week’s purchase likely will have the USDA revising its forecast for Chinese corn imports from all origins in 2020-21 from the current projection at 17.5 million tonnes.

China is the largest purchaser of US corn thus far in 2020-21 far surpassing Mexico, typically the largest buyer of US corn. Exports and undelivered sales of US corn to Mexico through March 4, 2021, for 2020-21 totaled 12,142,800 tonnes.