LONDON, ENGLAND — While China was forecast to steadily increase production of principal grains such as wheat and corn in the next five years, the trends were lower for rice and especially soybeans, according to projections contained in the International Grains Council’s (IGC) “Five-Year Global Supply and Demand Projections” issued on Dec. 10. In the case of soybeans, lower domestic production will make China even more dependent on imports.

The IGC forecast China’s 2014 soybean crop at 12.5 million tonnes, down 600,000 tonnes from the estimate for the current year. Soybean production has been in decline in recent years with the recent high outturn registered in 2010 at 15.1 million tonnes.

The IGC forecast China’s soybean production to decline steadily in the next five years and reach only 11.8 million tonnes in 2018-19, the final year in the IGC’s medium-term outlook.
The IGC commented, “Soybean farms in China are typically rather small, often utilizing outdated cultivation practices, thus restricting the potential for substantial yield advances. Given that land expansion is also a limiting factor, as most arable land is already in use, farmers tend to focus on higher-yielding crops, such as maize. Consequently, soybean sowings in China are projected to decline over the outlook period, further increasing reliance on trade to meet expanding consumption requirements.”

The IGC forecast China’s soybean imports in 2014-15 at 71.5 million tonnes, up 3.5 million tonnes from the 68-million-tonne forecast for the current year and compared with 59.5 million tonnes in 2012-13 and 57.4 million tonnes in 2011-12. The IGC forecast China’s soybean imports to rise steadily and reach 83.5 million tonnes in 2018-19.

“Global trade (in soybeans, October-September) is projected to expand by more than 3% in 2014-15 and by 2.1% per year thereafter and reach 123 million tonnes by 2018-19, nearly entirely due to China’s increasing import requirements, which will continue to account for more than two-thirds of world traded volumes,” the IGC said.

The IGC noted China’s soybean crop was mainly geared toward supplying the domestic food industry, whose demand for soybean products was falling. In contrast, booming demand for soybeans to be processed into soybean meal to support rapid growth in poultry and swine production in the past decade ignited a surge in soybean imports. “This is set to remain a feature in future years, albeit at a slower rate than before,” the IGC said.

In the case of rice, the IGC pointed to a slight reduction in demand in China. The IGC said, “China’s rice consumption is expected to peak in 2014-15 before edging lower as rising incomes promote a further shift to increased protein consumption at the expense of traditional staples.”

As a result of declining demand, both China’s rice production and its rice imports were forecast to decline in the next five years. The IGC forecast China’s rice production to decline from a forecast 141.5 million tonnes in 2014 to 138 million tonnes in 2018. The IGC forecast China’s rice imports to decline from a projected 1.5 million tonnes in 2014-15 to 1 million tonnes 2018-19.