The U.S. Grains Council recently completed their 15th Annual China Corn Tour and determined that China will have a bumper crop with an estimated production of 167 million metric tons or 6.6 billion bushels.
USGC CEO Tom Dorr spoke about the importance of this corn tour saying that tracking production, tracking ending stocks and even trying to assess a yield in China historically has been a challenge.
"As we all know the Chinese government historically has not been transparent in its systems," Dorr said. "It is now in the process of trying to, in my view, make its systems more transparent, but that still means that this tour is quite essential if we are to assess opportunities in that market."
Dorr says the process developed by USGC has evolved over the past 15 years and that they believe it is reasonably reliable.
Several groups travel through the seven major growing areas to determine yield, acres and production. Groups average about 10 to 12 samples per day. In order to estimate yield groups measure stalk spacing, row spacing, ears per plant, the number of kernels per ear as well as maturity and specific problems including lodging, pest presence, weed pressure and mold.
"Once samples are collected from each sample location they are tested for moisture and density," said Nebraska Corn Board Executive Director Don Hutchens. "Between 25% and 40% of the sample sites are located by GPS and the rest are identified by map. For next year we'd suggest using GPS for all the sites and locations."
In addition to collecting samples, at most stops teams will meet and talk with farmers to identify relative crop quality compared to the previous years. The participants discuss farmer comments and independent assessments of the crop and come to a consensus on numbers with respect to yield and area. Production is then calculated based on the yield and production area.
"Estimates for growing area start with a report from provincial and national statistics bureaus," Hutchens said. "It is Chinese practice that these numbers may be adjusted either up or down with policy objectives in mind. As a result official changes in growing area do not necessarily reflect changes in actual production area and actual production area is really difficult to ascertain."
Hutchens says that is one of the reasons the council began doing an independent survey 15 years ago.
"All around government, private analysts and the council say this is a good crop and by everything we saw, we concur," Hutchens said. "The Chinese are typically are inclined to maintain a higher level of stocks, roughly 25% and the council believes that the 2011 production will account for 14% to 16% ending stocks. Therefore China will need to import to rebuild those carryout stocks levels."
According to Dorr, USGC thinks the U.S. will export five to 10 million metric tons to China between now and December 2012.