The USDA on Thursday reported sales of 686,000 metric tons of corn to Chinese buyers, with 371,000 tons of it for delivery in the 2019-20 marketing year and the rest — 315,000 tons — in 2020-21. The sales suggest China is following through on promises in the “phase one” trade deal to fulfill its yearly tariff rate quota.

“China’s recent purchases of U.S. corn place the country back in the top five markets for U.S. corn, which is promising news for U.S. farmers in this critical time,” the U.S. Grains Council said in a statement provided to Agri-Pulse Thursday. “China has been a strong customer for U.S. corn, as well as sorghum, DDGS and ethanol, in past years and the council is hopeful customers in China continue to find value in U.S. coarse grains and related products going forward.”

The 315,000-ton Chinese purchase of new crop corn announced Thursday is especially large, roughly triple the export sales for 2020-21 corn in the entire week of April 24-30, which was 97,500 tons and mostly to buyers in Japan and Panama.

China’s recent corn-buying spree in the U.S. started on March 20 with a 756,000-ton-purchase that was reported on the same day as purchases of 340,000 tons of wheat. Then on April 3, U.S. exporters were reported selling another 567,000 tons of corn to Chinese buyers.

Bryan Lohmar, China director for the USGC, reacted positively to the initial March 20 announcement from USDA, saying: “We already see exports greater than the past few years, and China typically buys much of its corn over the summer when its own supplies get tighter and domestic prices firm up.”

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China agreed in the “phase one” trade deal to honor commitments to buy corn, wheat and rice under tariff rate quotas that had been underused for years. The yearly TRQ for corn is 7.2 million metric tons, but it does not have to be of U.S. origin.

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