BEIJING, CHINA — China already has bought more than one-third of its projected total corn imports for the 2021-22 marketing year from the United States, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA figures show that China has bought 9.5 million tonnes of corn from the United States and is expected to import about 26 million tonnes from all international suppliers for the 2021-22 season, which begins in September.

The Asian country’s demand for corn has risen dramatically in recent months as its hog herd continues to expand following a period when it shrank significantly due to the African swine fever outbreak.

The purchases of US corn come at a time when there is much uncertainty about the corn crop in Brazil, which is dealing with dry conditions in some of its key production areas.

Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at Stone X, told Bloomberg that China “wants to have coverage in place with Brazil’s crop getting smaller and the US crop facing undetermined risks for the growing season ahead.”

In addition to the forecast 26 million tonnes of corn imports, China reportedly will increase its production for the 2021-22 marketing year by 4.3% due to increased acreage and yield.

The country’s ag ministry earlier this month said it expected corn output to reach 271.81 million tonnes, up from 260.67 million tonnes a year ago.

The USDA in its most recent Export Sales report said exports and undelivered sales of US corn to China for 2020-21 totaled 23,244,300 tonnes. Of the total, 11,380,300 tonnes already have been shipped to China while 11.864 million tonnes have yet to be delivered.