Saturday, December 1, 2012

China 2012 Grain Production Statistics Released

China had another abundant grain harvest in 2012 that exceeded 589 million metric tons (mmt) according to estimates from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released November 30. NBS estimates that production rose 3.2 percent during 2012, an increase they attribute to good weather and policies. The statistics are shown in a table below.

Somehow, Chinese farmers found 694,000 hectares of land to expand the area planted in grain. Grain area increased by 0.6 percent and yield increased by 4.1 percent. NBS estimated that increases in yields contributed 14.78 mmt of additional grain output while expanded plantings contributed 3.58 mmt.

A major development highlighted by the statistics is the emergence of corn as China's biggest crop in both area and output. Corn production is estimated at 208 mmt, surpassing rice output (204 mmt) for the first time. The increase in corn output came mainly from increase in area. Corn area rose 4.2 percent and yield grew 3.6 percent. Rice area and yields both grew less than 1 percent. Wheat area was down but NBS says yield was up 3.3 percent.

The net growth in grain area reflects a big expansion of corn planting to meet the growing demand for feed, starches, alcohol and sweeteners made from corn. Corn planting increased by 1.4 million hectares (4.2-percent). Where did farmers find land to plant more corn? Some of it came from switching from soybeans to corn. NBS reports a decrease of 712,000 hectares (9 percent) in soybean plantings. However, the decrease in soybean area accounts for--at most--only half of the increase in corn area. Some area might have come from minor grains like millet, sorghum and mung beans, but the NBS numbers imply a decrease in area for these other grains of only 110,000 hectares.

NBS said the improvement in crop yields reflected good weather, including plentiful rainfall, adequate sunshine and higher temperatures than usual. There is no mention of typhoons, leaf hoppers, wheat fungus, corn borers or army worms.

The report begins by citing the strong support for grain production from the central committee of the communist party and the state council for the increase in grain output. It specifically cites a set of programs described as disaster mitigation strategies. These include an expansion of specialized pest control teams and a "three preventions with one spray" program for wheat. When insects showed up, teams were organized to drench the fields with pesticides. There is also a campaign to grow rice seedlings under plastic tunnels in the northeast, and a "sit in water" strategy. In south China there was a big campaign this year to subsidize farms that specialize in propagating seedlings for the early rice crop. Another campaign to address the chronic drought in southwestern provinces promoted the use of plastic mulch to retain moisture in the soil for growing corn.

The report cites the government's four major subsidies (a direct payment, general input subsidy, seed subsidy and machinery purchase subsidy) for supporting grain production. NBS also gives credit to price support programs for sending a strong signal to encourage grain production by early announcement of prices (i.e. before planting). The report doesn't mention it, but many provinces expanded their subsidies to over 100 yuan per mu this year and some are linking the subsidies more closely to area planted. There was an additional "general input subsidy" that amounted to about 20 yuan per mu to compensate farmers for the government's increase in fuel prices. In Shandong Province subsidies were raised to 120 yuan this year with a 10-yuan bonus for farms of 100 mu or larger, and officials there began using remote sensing satellite imagery to verify subsidized wheat area.

National Bureau of Statistics Estimates of 2012 Grain Production
Crop Item Unit 2012 value 2011-12 Change Percent change
Grain Output mmt 589.570 18.360 3.2
Area mil ha 111.269 0.694 0.6
Yield mt/ha 5.299 0.207 4.1
Rice Output mmt 204.290 3.280 1.6
Area mil ha 30.297 0.240 0.8
Yield mt/ha 6.743 0.055 0.8
Wheat Output mmt 120.580 3.180 2.7
Area mil ha 24.139 -0.131 -0.5
Yield mt/ha 4.995 0.158 3.3
Corn Output mmt 208.120 15.340 8.0
Area mil ha 34.949 1.407 4.2
Yield mt/ha 5.955 0.207 3.6
Soybeans Area mil ha 7.177 -0.712 -9.0
Other*  Area mil ha 14.707 -0.110 -0.7
mmt=million metric tons; mil.ha.=million hectares; mt/ha=metric tons per hectare. 
*calculated by dimsums.

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