China may double its corn imports from the U.S. this season, adding to a burgeoning year for American exporters and giving railroads and ocean carriers a boost in grain shipments until about August 2012.
U.S. corn exports to China so far this year have already exceeded total exports from last year, thanks to the recent sale of 900,000 metric tons of American corn, one of the largest sales ever to the country, the Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.
China imported about 1 million metric tons last fiscal year, according to the U.S. Grains Council.
U.S. agriculture has led the country’s exporting charge, with American farmers on target to send $135.5 billion in products abroad this year. That’s 17 percent higher than in 2010, and at a value nearly double of exports in the last five years, a boost to a business some believe is an increasingly important growth engine for the American economy.
Although China is already on track to become a net importer of U.S. corn for the second straight year, estimates of how much corn the country will import vary widely.
The USGC expects the country to import 5 to 10 million metric tons of corn, while the USDA places imports at closer to 2 million metric tons.
Analyst Hanver Li expects China to import between 7 million to 10 million metric tons of U.S. corn over the next 12 months, according to the Associated Press. China’s annual imports of U.S. corn could reach 15 million metric tons by 2015, said Li, chairman of the market research firm Shanghai JC Intelligence.