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Chinese Drought Impact on 2024 Grain Markets

Chinese Drought Impact on 2024 Grain Markets

An increase in China's import demand will have significant repercussions on global markets

By Devin Lashley Risk Management Intern

China is currently enduring a record-breaking heatwave, with temperatures soaring up to 108°F. This extreme heat is severely affecting key agricultural regions, particularly those responsible for corn and soybean production.

The National Meteorological Centre (NMC) has highlighted that more than 20 weather stations in northern Hebei and eastern Shandong provinces have reported record high temperatures for this season. The impact of this heatwave is compounded by an ongoing severe drought in the east, which is further threatening crop yields.

The heatwave and drought are expected to impact 30-40% of China’s corn and soybean growing regions. This reduction in crop yield is likely to drive up the country’s need to import these essential agricultural products. Given that China is the largest global importer of corn and soybeans, any increase in its import demand will have significant repercussions on global markets.

In 2022, due to the drought among other global factors at the time, the total value of U.S. agricultural and related products exported to China reached a record $40.9 billion, this was primarily due to droughts affecting northern regions, and monsoon rains destroying crops, making them only good enough to use for animal feed.

Due to additional demand for U.S. agricultural goods the year marked a 14.5% increase from the previous year. This trend underscores China's critical role as a primary market for U.S. agricultural exports. The Southern drought of 2022 in China was considered the worst drought in the Yangtze River Basin since 1961.

The U.S. agricultural sector stands to benefit from China's increased demand. Brazil, suffering from its own crop growing issues, and another major supplier of corn and soybeans, has recently imposed a 20% tax on these exports. This tax makes Brazilian exports more expensive and less competitive on the global market, potentially positioning the U.S. as a more attractive supplier for China. As a result, the U.S. could see a substantial boost in its export program.

China's current agricultural challenges come at a time when the country is already grappling with the highest average temperatures recorded from March to May since records began in 1961. The NMC has already issued warnings about the potential impact of soaring temperatures on energy supplies, crop production, and public health.

The high temperatures and drought conditions in provinces like Hebei, Henan, and Shandong are depleting soil moisture, further jeopardizing crop health despite some minor rainfall expected, which is insufficient to mitigate the drought's effects.

In the broader context of global agricultural markets, a reduction in China's domestic crop production could lead to higher prices for grains and soybeans worldwide. The US World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report had previously maintained steady production estimates for China, but the current weather conditions suggest a possible underestimation of the adverse effects.

China and the USDA will either deny that anything is wrong with grain production and or they will slow walk it before anyone has any idea production was lower. You will know there is a problem when China starts to buy more U.S. corn and soybean for export despite the geopolitical tensions between the 2 superpowers.


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