Vietnam’s 2018 corn imports surge, traders dismiss China smuggling fears


Vietnam is on course to smash estimates for its 2018 calendar year corn imports, as a recent spate of South American buying boosts a strong import programme from earlier in the year, according to data analysed by Agricensus.

However, rumours that imports heading to Vietnam are feeding a smuggling route into China have been dismissed by regional sources.

Customs data from key corn exporting nations for January-September shows Vietnam has already imported 7.4 million mt of corn from the US, Brazil, Russia and Argentina – with well over half of it booked from Argentina.

On top of that, South African data shows a further 691,218 mt has been exported to Vietnam since January, taking total Vietnam imports to at least 8.1 million mt, with the final quarter still to come.

That’s around 600,000 mt short of a USDA calendar year import estimate, published earlier in the year by the US agency’s Vietnam-based attache.

On a marketing year basis, the import estimate was set locally – by the USDA’s post – at 8.66 million mt for the 2017/18 season, rising to 11 million mt in the 2018/19 marketing year.

Those figures were at odds with the USDA’s own official estimates, which at the time forecasted a 9 million mt 2017/18 import requirement, rising to a 10 million mt 2018/19 import outlook.

Line up data for South America corn exports suggest that around another 1.2 million mt of corn intended for Vietnam has either loaded, is waiting to load or has sailed from Brazilian and Argentinian ports through October and early November.

The increased consumption is driven by a growing domestic livestock market, but some have suggested Vietnam could be providing a conduit for China to import corn.

However, sources in the region have dismissed those fears as unlikely, with Vietnam’s domestic needs enough to account for the increasing volume.

“Last time we spoke to North Vietnam traders, they said the border is closed and the flow of corn, pork meat and hogs is very limited to non-existent,” one market source said.

“China has been cracking down drastically on officials at borders, so that flow has surely slowed down significantly,” the source said.



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