China to start planting GMO corn in 2023: trade sources

China is to start planting genetically modified (GMO) corn domestically for the first time in history this year as the country is committed to achieving the goal of self-sufficiency, according to several market sources.

The planting of GMO corn seeds is said to be carried out across various parts of the country stretching from the corn production hub of Jilin province to China’s most southwest province of Yunnan.

But the size is expected to be minimal compared to China’s gross corn output.

“It will, but very small,” said one trader from an international grain house about the plan, which has not been officially announced by the government.

“There have been rumors for a while. It is to increase yield,” one trading manager commented. “It is putting pressure on the board.”

The types of GMO corn seeds to be selected for domestic planting this year are likely all developed by Chinese companies.

“[It will be] our GMO,” one China-based analyst from a major futures brokerage said regarding the seeds.

This was first reported by news media Reuters this week citing other sources who were briefed on the plan.

China produces more than 270 million tons of corn each year, the second largest volume after the US.

However, China imports around 20-30 million tons of corn every year to meet its annual demand of nearly 300 million tons, which is largely on par with the US.

As imports account for 10% of China’s corn supply, the government has been searching for solutions to boost domestic output. Given the limited arable land in China, an improvement in yield becomes an obvious solution.

The current average corn yield in China is only 60% of that in the US, according to official data from China and the US.

The plan to boost domestic corn yield by adopting GMO seeds is also a direct response to the ongoing supply disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.

Though China has recently approved imports of Brazilian corn, it is still subject to supply uncertainties such as long waiting times at port, inland transportation bottlenecks, and more importantly the political relationship with Brazil.

Furthermore, the plan also echoes the Chinese government’s push for larger soybean production in 2023.

As corn and soybean plantings mostly overlap in northeastern China, higher corn yield can reduce the total planting areas for corn and allow more soybean planting.