Chinese feed demand forecast to stay strong, but disease outbreaks could hit pig herd growth

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/OliviaSabeskaya
© GettyImages/OliviaSabeskaya

Related tags China Corn imports

Chinese demand is continuing to support feed grain prices but disease outbreaks amongst China’s pig herd are reportedly hampering recovery with Reuters reporting porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) as well as more frequent outbreaks of swine flu in the northern and northeast provinces.

The new strains of African swine fever (ASF) the country has identified are likely caused by use of unapproved vaccines, according to the Reuters story. Those strains are said to be causing a chronic but difficult-to-detect form of the disease.

In their latest analysis, USDA FAS China specialists expect, however, that, as the Asian economy rebuilds its pig herd, feed demand for 2020/21 will increase by 15.6Mt from 2019/20.

China’s MY2020/21 feed and residual use for all coarse grains and feed-quality wheat and rice are set to jump to 249.9 million metric tons (MMT) given the forecast recovery of swine production, according to the estimates in the FAS China report​.

Rice and wheat substitutes 

That publication highlighted how China’s import demand for corn is forecast to remain strong in the coming months, though some of the demand will be mitigated by an increased use of sorghum, barley, and old rice and wheat stocks in feed rations.

“Many [Chinese] industry contacts forecast a 23 MMT corn deficit in MY2020/21. To meet demand, the gap will be filled by reserve auctions, substitutions, and imports. North and East feed mills are more active in rice and wheat auctions specifically targeting sales to feed mills, while Southern mills have easy access to imports of alternative grains. In general, top industry players see rice and wheat substitutes as the major feed trend for the next two years. This trend has been spreading from the North China Plain (NCP) to central China, and from solely in poultry feed to hog feed, as well.”

China’s sorghum’s production forecast in MY2020/21 is unchanged at 3.55 MMT. Sorghum consumption for MY 2020/21 is seen at 10 MMT, but still 700,000 MT lower than the USDA forecast, as old stock wheat and rice are expected to fill more feed rations.

fas china feed imports
Chinese Feed Grain Import Forecast © USDA FAS

Most imported US sorghum is used as feed to replace corn and is booked by feed mills before arriving in China. The spot sorghum supply is tight, and prices remain high. Sorghum imports are forecast at 6.5 MMT, 900,000 MT lower than the USDA forecast due to anticipated availability of other, cheaper substitutes for corn and sorghum, finds the FAS China review. 

In terms of barley, FAS China’s analysis is in line with USDA’s official forecast and estimates, they said.

Production in MY2020/21 is unchanged at 900,000 tons as government incentives target other cereal and coarse grains. Barley imports remain unchanged from the USDA estimate at 7 MMT though China’s punitive action on Australian barley, due to dumping claims, is due to run for five years and has traders scrambling for alternate suppliers.

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