Chinese buyers booked their single biggest purchase of U.S. corn, extending their flurry of large U.S. purchases even as tensions between Washington and Beijing rise.
The U.S. Agriculture Department said on Thursday that private exporters sold 1.937 million metric tons of corn to China for delivery in the 2020-2021 marketing year.
That topped the previous biggest deal to China of 1.762 million metric tons, reported just two weeks ago.
In a separate report, the USDA said soybean sales to China rose to 1.925 million metric tons in the week ended July 23, the biggest weekly total since Nov. 17, 2016.
The recent purchases place China closer to the ambitious $36.5 billion target for imports of U.S. farm goods this year set in the Phase One trade deal. Analysts and traders said that target may be achievable, but it is looking like a stretch.
At the end of May, the latest full-month data available, China’s imports of U.S. farm goods were running behind 2017 levels — rather than 50% ahead as needed.
Orders for China’s main farm import, soybeans, have started to pick up. And Thursday’s huge corn order also helps. But scorching levels of buying would be needed to hit the mark.
Add in a rapid deterioration in U.S.-China relations, an upcoming U.S. election, a global pandemic and questions over just how much soybeans China actually needs, and farmers and analysts said it may be a stretch too far.
“It just doesn’t seem likely to me,” said John Payne, senior futures and options broker with Daniels Trading in Chicago. “If the global economy was more normal, then maybe, but you have this whole COVID problem.”
The corn sale reported on Thursday was valued at around $325 million, based on new-crop prices at the U.S. Gulf.
That same day, China accused the United States of stoking a new Cold War ahead of its presidential election in November. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called the Chinese Communist Party “the central threat of our times.”
Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans slowed last week from the previous one.