The Department of Agriculture reported Monday sales of more than 1 million metric tons of U.S. corn to Chinese buyers. The sale comes on the heels of a USDA report showing a smaller-than-expected U.S. corn crop this year as well as amid the war in Ukraine that has all but cut off Ukrainian exports.

The USDA daily grain sale report shows a Chinese purchase of 1,084,000 tons of U.S. corn, with 676,000 tons for delivery in the current 2021-22 marketing year and 408,000 tons for delivery in 2022-23.

China bought millions of tons of U.S. corn last year, most of which it did not take possession, but left on the books. That corn — roughly 10 million tons — stayed on the books as China ramped up purchases from Ukraine, said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at StoneX Group. But after the Russian invasion began, China started taking that U.S. corn.

What remains unclear is how much — if any — corn China was able to get shipped out of Ukraine this year before the Invasion. China, according to a report by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in Beijing, bought as much as 600,000 tons of Ukrainian corn and had expected delivery in the first quarter of 2022.

Information is murky about Ukrainian shipments of corn out of the Black Sea early in the invasion, but Suderman said several ships were allowed by the Russian military to leave to make room for its warships.

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“After the Russian invasion of Ukraine shut down Ukrainian ports, then (the Chinese) started shipments of U.S. corn that they had on the books,” said Suderman. “But they weren’t buying any additional corn beyond that.”

But that appears to have changed with the Monday grain sale out of USDA.

“There were rumors … that China was buying, but we never could see anything confirmed,” Suderman said. “It gets confirmed immediately after the March 31 report showing the smaller-than-expected acreage for (U.S.) corn and all of a sudden we have confirmation that U.S. supplies are going to be tight in the year ahead and China starts getting more aggressive and making purchases.”

U.S. Grains Council President and CEO Ryan LeGrand tells Agri-Pulse the U.S. will be in a good position to meet China’s demand.

“We are very pleased to see continued demand by China for U.S. corn,” he said. “Today’s purchase brings them close to 13 (million metric tons) of known purchases for the current crop year and secures additional supplies for 2022-23. The U.S. is in a great position to continue supplying China’s robust demand for corn.”

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