The Chinese government is pushing farmers to reduce corn acreage in favor of corn silage, soybeans and grain sorghum to support the nation’s livestock producers. The shift means less dependence on imported feed, according to researchers Elizabeth Lunik of Thuenen Institute in Germany, Xiangdong Hu of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China and Jiang Bing of Northeast Agricultural University, also in China.
The move marks a dramatic shift from the period of 2012 to 2016, when the government bought corn and other grain at 75% or even above 100% of international market prices.
“Policy always takes time to translate to farmers, and despite the end of the corn reserve program in December 2015, China’s year-on-year corn output increased 4% in 2015/16,” the researchers point out in a report that is being prepared for future publication. Corn stocks peaked at 114.4 million metric
tons in 2015/16.
Now, the trend is reversing. Corn stocks in the Asian nation fell by 9.5 million metric tons in 2016/17, and they are expected to fall just over 20 million metric tons more in 2017/18. Even so, China has more than 40% of the world’s corn inventories. Meanwhile, soybean production has risen 9% to more than 12.5 million tons because of government policies supporting producers who grow the crop in the northeastern part of the country.
Several barriers exist to producers in China more rapidly moving to other crops such as silage.
For example, in Heilongjiang, the top province for corn grain production, producers haven’t had sufficient education about the profitability of alternative crops or cropping systems. They have grown corn continuously for a decade.
“During field visits conducted in spring 2016, farmers were hesitant to quickly change all of their corn grain acreage to silage because they were unsure of the market buying it, the price, storage, and in general, how to harvest corn silage,” the researchers note. “This is an important issue, because unlike corn grain that can be harvested manually if needed, silage needs to be chopped at the correct time and dry matter content.”
Beyond education, producers face economic challenges such as adequate local demand for crops and transportation costs. Chinese farmers must evaluate these factors as they respond to a changing landscape.