BEIJING, CHINA — China has received its first significant shipment of corn from South Africa, another signal it is striving to diversify its global sources of grain in its drive for food security.

The 53,000-tonne corn cargo bought by state-owned trader COFCO Group arrived May 4 into Machong port in southern Guangdong province, and will be sold to animal feed makers, Reuters reported, citing China’s official news agency Xinhua. China approved corn imports from South Africa several years ago, but COFCO’s purchase is the first significant volume to reach the country.

More shipments are expected as South Africa, the continent’s top corn producer, exported 108,104 tonnes of yellow feed corn to China between March 25 and April 14 this year, according to the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS).

South Africa is on course to produce a fourth consecutive bumper corn crop in marketing year 2022-23 with 16.2 million tonnes, maintaining its status as a net exporter of the grain for 2023-24 with 2.3 tonnes of corn exports, according to the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture.

COFCO is working to expand purchases and “normalize” bulk imports of corn from South Africa, Xinhua said, quoting Fan Zhenyu, head of COFCO International’s corn business.

Production, logistics, and the volatility surrounding the Black Sea Grain Initiative have continued to disrupt China’s corn imports from Ukraine, which had been China’s second-largest corn supplier before Russia’s Feb. 22, 2022, invasion.

China has responded by expanding its sources of corn, including updating its list of approved Brazilian corn exporters, which jump-started imports from South America’s largest producer. 

The United States remains the top supplier of corn to China, with 6.8 million tonnes booked for delivery in marketing year 2022-23, according to the FAS.