The hiccups surrounding Chinese imports of US corn are "likely
to persist or worsen" thanks to the uncertainty over regulation of genetically
modified varieties – but buy-ins of the grain are likely to rise longer term.
US Department of Agriculture staff in Beijing underlined the
setback to US corn exports to China from the detection of a biotech corn
variety, Syngenta's MIR 162, which has not been approved by Beijing.
"Some traders have cancelled shipments altogether, while
others have delayed Beijing contracts in hope that the Chinese Ministry of
Agriculture will approve MIR 162 before the end of the marketing year," the
USDA bureau said.
"However, there has been no indication that this situation
will be resolved quickly."
China's "slow and unpredictable" system for regulating GMO
crops "has created a challenging environment for agricultural imports that is
likely to persist or worsen".
However, further ahead, prospects remain bright for corn
imports by China, which the USDA foresees growing into the biggest corn
importer, with purchases of 19.6m tonnes by 2022-23.
A "tightly coded, but highly consequential" speech by China's
president, Xi Jinping, in December on food policy, advocating self-sufficiency
for food grains, but allowing for an "appropriate" level of corn imports, appears
to have created the conditions for higher buy-ins.
China's new policy "may increase corn imports in the long
run", the bureau said.
The comments come amid a heightened focus on China's corn
imports, amid the GM rumpus, which prompted two US industry associations to
urge Syngenta to withdraw corn seed of varieties not approved by China.
Syngenta said last week it was still marketing two corn seed
brands under fire, Viptera and Duracade, flagging demand from farmers for the protection
against corn rootworm, a moth caterpillar,that they allow.
On Viptera, Davor
Pisk, the Syngenta chief operating officer, told investors that "we need to
recognize that this is a product that has been established now in the
marketplace three seasons, great broad lep [moth] control, [and] customers
really appreciate it.
"Also domestic demand for corn, let's remember, accounts for
the vast majority of corn production."
On Duracade, a new brand, Mr Pisk said that Syngenta had
received "very strong orders" and was "sold out".
"This is the first year of launch. In any first year volumes
are limited as we ramp up and scale up production."
On Friday, Tom Vilsack, the US agriculture secretary, said that
the US had been "working with the Chinese to try to get their regulatory
process to be more accepting of biotechnology".