Chinese corn and barley buyers have returned to the market

Chinese buyers are showing strong demand for barley and corn, with significant purchases from France, Australia, and Ukraine

Chinese buyers have returned to the market after a long holiday, showing firm demand for optional origin barley and Ukrainian corn, with several trades of the grains done recently, trade sources told Fastmarkets Agriculture.

Barley trading

Traders said Chinese buying interest was solid, with up to 12 cargoes of barley traded into China in the last week, sourced from France, Australia, and Ukraine.

Fastmarkets did not manage to confirm all 12 deals, but trade sources said that at least five optional origin trades were completed, while rising basis prices for French-origin barley also pointed to significant purchases.

French barley bids on a free on board (FOB) basis increased from a €25 per tonne discount to May Euronext milling wheat futures to a €17 per tonne discount.

In Australia, local sources said they had seen more interest for buying barley on an FOB basis, most probably to cover sales into China on a delivered basis, with bids firming to $235 per tonne FOB WA.

Ukrainian-origin barley was offered at $245 per tonne cost and freight (CFR) China, however, traders said Chinese buyers were reluctant to purchase Ukrainian origin due to contaminants found in previously purchased cargoes.

Price ideas were heard at around $247-255 per tonne CFR China for optional origin cargoes.

French and Ukrainian origins are both subject to a 3% import tariff, while Australian origin is duty-free.

Chinese barley imports in 2023/24 are expected to reach 8.4 million tonnes, while around 6.5 million were already imported during the July-December period, with Australia regaining market share after the imports were allowed in August 2023.

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Corn trading

Chinese demand has also picked up for Ukrainian corn, with at least a few trades happening last week, while there was unconfirmed market talk of up to 10 deals signed.

The trade levels were reported at around $227-229 per tonne CFR for March-April shipment, while currently offers are at $230-235 per tonne versus $225-227 per tonne on the buying side.

Ukrainian corn is currently the cheapest origin in the world, amid big amounts available in the country for sale along with a need to stay competitive despite the high freight costs.

Trade sources said that Chinese buyers had also shown interest in US corn loaded from Pacific ports, with the offers shown at around $237 per tonne CFR, but no more details were available if any purchases were made.

Chinese corn import potential for 2023/24 is pegged at 23 million tonnes, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), while during the September-January period around 15 million tonnes were already imported, with Brazilian origin taking the lion’s share of that.

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