China monthly barley imports hit new record on falling corn imports

China imported a new record amount of barley in November this year as feed makers sought cheaper alternatives amid slumping corn imports.

Barley imports into China topped 1.53 million tons last month, surpassing the previous record of 1.51 million tons in September 2021, according to data from China Customs.

China’s November barley imports was up 38% year on year and was almost 16% higher from the previous month.

As barley imports spiked during November, corn and sorghum imports slumped. Corn imports in November this year plunged 36% on the year to 790,000 tons, reaching the lowest level since May 2020. The volume nearly halved month on month.

For sorghum, imports in November totalled 530,000 tons down more than 36% from the previous month, but still more than doubled year on year.

Feed grain imports into China all rose sharply in the past two years as the world’s largest hog producing country shrugged off the impact of African swine fever (ASF) and rapidly rebuilt its herd to pre-ASF level.

Corn, barley, and sorghum are commonly used as a key ingredient of energy source in animal feed. As the price of one type rises, feed makers would typically swap for others as a cheaper alternative.

Though wheat has not been a predominant choice in animal feed use given that China prioritizes the grain for rationing, the crop was a popular substitute to corn this year as feed markers blend them with low quality corn to meet national inspection standards.