BEIJING, CHINA — China’s demand for corn imports in marketing year 2021-22 is expected to moderate as the country’s feed sector sources cheaper grain alternatives and feed consumption increases at a slower rate, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

After importing a record 30 million tonnes of corn in 2020-21, China is expected to take in 20 million tonnes this year, about 6 million tonnes less than an earlier projection, according to USDA projections.

In terms of production, China is projected to harvest 272 million tonnes of corn in 2021-22, about 1 million tonnes lower than the previous projection, as losses caused by natural disasters in the North China Plain in July were not fully offset by better yields in Northeast China, the USDA said.

The agency noted that if the price gap between corn and wheat narrows further — as of early October wheat was about $30 per tonne cheaper than corn — feed mills are expected to increase corn use as corn has been the preferred feed ingredient.

China was far and away the biggest corn importer in 2020-21, nearly doubling second-ranked Mexico’s intake of 16.5 million tonnes. China’s 30 million tonnes of corn imports was four times greater than its 2019-20 total and more than 10 times its import amount in 2016-17.