US officials raised, fresh, concerns over official Chinese crop data, saying rapeseed output estimates may have been exaggerated by some 50%, hours after a G20-backed crop information group revealed talks with Beijing over ag statistics.
The US Department of Agriculture’s bureau in Beijing flagged widespread talk in China that the country’s rapeseed production may be far lowered than estimates from the national statistics bureau, which have shown it averaging more than 14m tonnes for the past three years.
“According to industry sources, China’s rapeseed production has been officially over-reported since 2008,” the bureau said in a report.
“Many industry insiders believe that in the recent four years, the actual annual rapeseed production averaged 4.5m tonnes lower than the national statistics bureau data.”
This would place the harvest well below the levels of about 12m tonnes that the USDA itself has been factoring in for Chinese rapeseed output.
The briefing quoted a survey from China’s official CNGOIC think tank of 300 participants at a rapeseed forum which “showed none of them supported yearly production above 8m tonnes”.
Data for last year raise particular doubts, with the harvest officially pegged maintaining an increasing trend in both 2013, at 14.46m tonnes, and 2014, at 14.6m tonnes, yet other evidence pointing to tighter supplies.
Chinese government purchases of rapeseed last year tumbled by 43% to 3.49m tonnes despite an offer price some 1,000 yuan a tonne above the domestic market rate, a discrepancy which “implies a small production”, the bureau said.
“Additionally imports of rapeseed surged to 5m tonnes in 2014.”
The comments come the day after Agrimoney.com revealed that the Agricultural Market Information System (Amis), set up in 2011 at the behest of the G20 group of leading nations, including China, is to hold talks with Beijing officials over ag data.
The group’s concerns are mainly over Chinese stocks statistics, for which legislation prevents public dissemination, leaving them a “state secret”, according to Amis secretary Abdolreza Abbassian, who is also a senior economist at the United Nations food agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization.
However, other observers, including USDA staff, have raised concerns in the past over Chinese production estimates too, such as for corn output.
There has in the past been talk that a Chinese subsidy system which rewards provinces by production has resulted in inflated harvest claims.
With China a huge user of agricultural commodities, and the top importer of many, such as cotton, rubber and soybeans, the statistical discrepancies have provoked disquiet among investors for potentially hampering the ability of world prices to set appropriate rates.
But the data are a hindrance for China too, in its efforts to encourage the desired production mix in its domestic harvests.
“Market observers” said that Beijing had initially planned to expand to rapeseed this year, from cotton and soybeans, a subsidy system based on target prices.
“However, considering the difficulty of collecting reliable data on area and production, and the anticipated high administrative expenses, the government has indefinitely postponed the expansion of this policy,” the bureau said.
‘Production expected to remain low’
Without further financial support, there are doubts over whether China’s rapeseed production will grow, with “industry sources” forecasting that output this year “could be as low as 8m tonnes, “significantly lower than the current CNGOIC’s estimate of 14.2m tonnes”, the bureau said.
“Domestic rapeseed production is expected to remain low in the coming years given lower profit expectations compared to the rapid wage increase for casual work in the cities.”
The bureau forecast Chinese rapeseed production this year at 11.0m tonnes, down 1.0m tonnes year on year on its estimates.
(Source – http://www.agrimoney.com/news/us-officials-stoke-doubts-over-chinese-crop-data–8437.html)