HAMBURG/KYIV/SINGAPORE — Chinese importers are believed to have made large purchases of animal feed corn from Ukraine in the past two weeks, traders in Asia and Europe said, providing a boost for the war-ravaged country from an unlikely source.
The traders were unable to say the exact volumes, but several said they amounted to several hundred thousand metric tons.
Some estimates from European traders ranged from 500,000 to 1 million tons for shipment between October and December.
A Ukrainian government source also confirmed corn sales to China, a key ally of Russia, particularly since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
“Importers in China have bought around 10 to 12 Panamax cargoes of Ukrainian corn for November/December shipment,” said a Singapore-based trader at an international grain trading company, referring to a size of ship with a capacity that typically exceeds 60,000 tons of grain.
“Ukraine is the cheapest origin for corn as of now,” the trader said.
A Ukrainian government source said: “I cannot tell you the volume, but I know that many (traders) did it and it is a good trend (for Ukrainian corn).”
Russia has tried to impose a de facto blockade on seaborne Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea. Its exit from a UN-backed safe shipping corridor in July has made the Danube River Ukraine’s main grain export route and Moscow has been bombing port infrastructure along the river for months.
Ukrainian farmers say that domestic grain prices have fallen by 40% due to the inability to export freely and this is forcing them to reconsider sowing plans for next year.
And even a new maritime corridor established by Kyiv, together with the Danube River ports, cannot compensate for the previously operating export routes from the Odesa port hub and Mykolaiv port.
China is traditionally one of the biggest buyers of Ukraine’s corn to meet its animal feed needs. Chinese corn shipments were among the largest freight types transported in the UN-backed safe shipping channel.
European traders said the latest deals with China could allow sellers to choose the shipping route.
This could involve either direct ocean shipment via ports in the Odesa region if Kyiv’s new shipping channel succeeds, traders said.
Otherwise, Romanian ports could be used, they said.
Ukraine is seen as having large volumes of corn for export. It was able to harvest 25.6 million tons of corn this year and 19 million tons could be potentially exported, the APK-Inform agriculture consultancy estimates.
Farm ministry data show Ukraine has exported 2.6 million tons of corn so far this season, including 545,000 tons in September.
A large Chinese domestic corn crop and surging imports from Brazil are set to flood the Chinese market in coming weeks, reducing demand for other grains, Reuters reported. — Reuters