World crop data officials are to hold meetings with Chinese peers over opening up access to the country’s grains data, including the “state secret” of stocks information, which are providing puzzles to world investors.
Staff in charge of the Amis crop market organisation, backed by the likes of the International Grains Council and the United Nations, are seeking enhanced access to Chinese stocks data which represent one of the largest statistical mysteries in world markets, and seen as adding significant structural uncertainty to world prices.
China is in fact “quite good at producing numbers” on domestic crop production and consumption, said Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary at Amis and a senior economist the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN food agency.
But “releasing numbers on stocks is prevented by legislation”.
“They have on soybeans and cotton relaxed a bit, but not on grains,” he told Agrimoney.com.
Mr Abbassian said he was hoping by the end of the year for progress on gaining access to grain stocks figures which are “basically a state secret”, and are causing headaches for the world grains industry.
‘Something is not matching up’
The gap in estimates for estimates for world corn stocks, which range from 192m tonnes by the US Department of Agriculture to 219m tonnes by the FAO, was down in a large part to uncertainty over Chinese supplies.
The puzzle over Chinese stocks raised questions of whether the country’s continued imports of some corn, and larger amounts of other feed grains such as sorghum and barley, meant that a current FAO estimate of 108.8m tonnes was “too high”, Mr Abbassian told the IGC conference in London.
Stefan Vogel, head of agri commodity markets research at Rabobank, also told the conference that “I also doubt some of the [Chinese] numbers”.
One knock-on effect of Chinese uncertainty was in providing puzzles over consumption of feed ingredients in the country, Mr Vogel said, adding that “something is not matching up here”.
From China’s State Administration of Grain, Lu Jing Bo, vice-administrator, said that China’s corn inventories had reached a record high, although he failed to reveal a number for the inventories.
While Chinese corn consumption was rising rapidly, driven by feed and industrial use, production was also rising fast, he said.
Indeed, he said that long-term changes China’s grains supply and demand had been “about the same” overall, although with surpluses in some crops, such as rice, compared with deficits in the likes of soybeans.
However, he acknowledged that for China “farmland and free water per capita are far less than the world average”, providing a long-term challenge to efforts to promote self-sufficiency.
‘Very positive note’
For wheat, Mr Lu said that China was expecting a small rise in production this year, helped by a strong performance for winter crop.
“The figures we have for wheat production are slightly increased compared with last year,” he told the conference.
“The autumn crops will be harvested on a very positive note.”
The USDA forecasts a 3.8m-tonne increase to 130m tonnes in Chinese wheat output this year.
(Source – http://www.agrimoney.com/news/china-to-hold-talks-over-opening-up-secret-crop-data–8432.html)