China is set to import record volumes of wheat this year, trading sources say, with rain damage to its crop and worries over dry weather in exporting nations fuelling Beijing’s appetite to buy while prices are low. The world’s biggest producer and consumer has bought around two million metric tons of new-crop Australian wheat since October for shipments starting in December, traders said. It has also booked about 2.5 million metric tons of French wheat since September for December-March shipment, they added.
The frantic buying is likely to support global prices, which have dropped more than a quarter this year – based on the Chicago futures benchmark price – amid abundant supplies from top exporter Russia. China’s wheat purchases are expected to also pressure supply in the international market, particularly from Brazil, where forecasts suggest it could surpass the U.S. as the world’s biggest wheat exporter in 2023.
In China, days of torrential rain have ravaged wheat fields in the country’s leading producing region in the northeast. A week ago, 14 people were reported killed in Hebei province as floodwaters swept through villages and submerged fields. The region, home to the Beijing city of Xi’an and a major grain producer, is battling drought and the damage from flooding caused by Typhoon Doksuri last month.
- RELATED STORY: Siemens Energy Requests $16 Billion in Government Support for Large Industrial Projects
Heavy rains have sparked floods across many parts of the country this year. The government has promised to spend 432 million yuan ($60 million) to help eight provinces, including Hebei, tackle the issue. However, the disasters highlight the risks facing China as climate change intensifies and extreme weather events become more frequent, affecting farming regions in all parts of the globe.
China’s food security challenges are expected to weigh on its economy as it seeks to defuse tension with the United States and the world over trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, and military expansion. While the escalation of diplomatic tensions has increased the risk of a full-scale war, China’s food self-sufficiency and internal security concerns may dissuade it from a prolonged military confrontation, analysts say.
In the near term, the turmoil in China’s economy and farm sector will likely push the country’s food prices, which had remained stable in recent months as Beijing struggled with deflation. That’s likely to displease consumers, fuelling a slowdown in overall consumer demand and further weighing on the economy.
Traders say that in the longer term, China’s domestic growth slowdown will be a more significant challenge for Beijing than the economic fallout from the trade conflict with the U.S. and the global economic downturn. The country will need to find new ways of increasing growth, such as more consumption of its vast supply of natural resources and improving the efficiency of its massive state-owned enterprises.