Ukraine is on track to become China’s top supplier of corn in the first half of 2015, according to a report.

According to the latest customs data for May, China imported 403,881 tons of corn, 95 percent of which came from Ukraine. This brings China’s imports from Ukraine to 1.55 million tons for the first five months of 2015.

After Kiev and Beijing signed a $3 billion loan-for-corn deal in 2012, Ukraine has established itself as China’s top corn exporter. Ukrainian agricultural groups have sought investment and export deals with Chinese companies such as Cofco, the state-owned grains trader.


Until last year, the United States was the top corn exporter to China. For the first five months of 2015, China imported 45,000 tons of corn from the U.S., down 95 percent from the previous year.

Economists say the rising imports from Eastern Europe point to China’s new “Silk Road” plan, which aims to upgrade roads and rails between Europe and Asia while revitalizing maritime routes across Southeast Asia and the India Ocean.

“Ukraine is on the new trade route to Europe that China wants to develop. It also meshes with China promoting investment and infrastructure in parts of the world that are neglected,” said Fred Gale, senior economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.