Sifferath and Charles Ring of the Texas Corn Producers Board toured corn fields in the northeastern provinces of Heilonjiang and Jilin, China, to assess the corn crop and formulate an estimate of this year’s harvest. The tour consisted of four groups of agriculturists evaluating nearly 300 cornfields.

“Our number this year shows a 1.13 percent increase over the government’s number last year, which was 151.86 million tons (6 billion bushels),” Sifferath said. “It seems there will be better yield numbers this year although there were spots of drought, wind and hail damage in some areas.” According to Sifferath, the national average yield for all provinces is 5.28 tons per hectare (84 bushels per acre) with Jilin province showing the highest yield the tour saw in terms of production at 111 bushels per acre. “Production acreage has been capped as the government is trying to set up regulations to contain the loss of farm land. Any increases in corn acreage are done so at the expense of another crop,” he said.

Despite the improved yield numbers in 2008, there seems to be little sign that China will begin exporting corn anytime soon as the government has been trying to control food inflation. “The government has virtually shut down exports of corn, wheat and rice. Other than a few sales trying to go through, there are no real exports going on at all, Sifferath said.” He also said feed demand in China is increasing with more corn going into the country’s swine industry, among others.

In terms of annual stock numbers in China, there are no official numbers but according to JCI, an economic analysis company which joined the tour, the estimated number for 2008 is 32 million tons (1.26 billion bushels) compared to last year’s number of 43 million tons (1.6 billion bushels), said Sam Niu, USGC assistant director in China.

“The farmers in China are very efficient with what they have,” said Ring. “They don’t waste anything, and family is the central point of their work.” The U.S. Grains Council’s China Corn Tour is conducted every year in the absence of reliable corn crop estimates from the Chinese government authorities.