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Reserve Corn Auction to Rein in Price Hikes

An unspecified amount of corn from the national reserve will be released in the market next Tuesday to curb rising prices.

The quantity and auction venues will be announced today or tomorrow, an official from the State Grain Administration told China Daily yesterday.

State Grain Administration Chief Nie Zhenbang said more corn will be auctioned if the price surges continue.

Corn prices have been on the rise mainly because of expanded ethanol demand as global crude oil prices keep surging and the corn yield decreases both at home and abroad.

In major domestic corn markets, the average price rose 3 percent last week from the week before. Globally, prices increased 18 percent last month year on year, after surging 50 percent in 2006.

The National Development and Reform Commission yesterday reiterated that the government should take stricter measures to stop corn being used to produce ethanol for bio-fuel, and urged corn exports to be tightly controlled. "If all these measures are fully implemented, the demand and supply will be balanced," said a spokesman for the commission.

About 2 percent of the country's corn output, or 3-4 million tons, is used each year to make ethanol; and much of the rest is used for animal feed.

But rising prices for feed coupled with animal diseases have led to pork price hikes this year.

The International Food Policy Research Institute said corn prices will continue to rise.

"Rising oil prices are the major driving force behind the long-term trend," the institute said this week.

According to the institute, ethanol production is profitable even if oil prices hover around the US$60-US$70 a barrel mark. They are currently around US$90.

(China Daily December 6, 2007)

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