China sorghum imports jump after Beijing dropped probe into US shipments: Customs

Imported items displayed at a store in Qingdao in China's eastern Shandong province. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 23 July 2018
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China sorghum imports jump after Beijing dropped probe into US shipments: Customs

  • China brought in 450,000 tons of sorghum in June, up from last year’s 324,301 tons
  • Corn buyers, meanwhile, scooped up cargoes on worries over the return of US-China trade policy tit-for-tat amid high domestic prices

BEIJING: China’s sorghum imports in June surged 38.1 percent on year, boosted by a temporary easing of Sino-US trade tensions, while corn imports for the month rose to one of highest levels in the past decade, customs data showed on Monday.
China brought in 450,000 tons of sorghum in June, up from last year’s 324,301 tons. Volumes were still down slightly from 470,000 tons in May, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
Beijing announced in mid-April that importers of sorghum from the United States would have to put up a 178.6 percent deposit on the value of shipments. Several cargoes already on the way changed course and were diverted to other markets.
A month later in a goodwill measure, however, China dropped the deposit and an anti-dumping probe into US sorghum imports as the two sides appeared to be reaching consensus on resolving trade issues.
“Some cargoes were already on the way to China when Beijing dropped the deposit. Then they cleared customs in weeks after. That should have pushed up the June volumes,” said Cherry Zhang, an analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligent Co. Ltd, before the data release.
Corn buyers, meanwhile, scooped up cargoes on worries over the return of US-China trade policy tit-for-tat amid high domestic prices.
Corn imports in June hit 520,000 tons, up 34.6 percent from a year ago and the second highest since July last year. The figures were down from 760,000 tons in May, the data showed.
The corn imports in the first six months tripled to 2.21 million tons, already close to China’s total 2017 purchase of 2.82 million tons of the grain, according to the data.
“There were margins importing corn as domestic corn prices were relatively high. And buyers were buying more corn in recent couple of months to prepare for the Sino-US trade tension in advance,” said Meng Jinhui, an analyst with Shengda Futures.
UScorn and sorghum shipments to China should drop significantly in July and August, analysts and traders said, as Beijing imposed a 25 percent tariff on US grains on July 6.
China buys almost all its sorghum imports from the United States.
In the first half of this year, China has brought in 3.25 million tons of sorghum, up 8.7 percent from the same period of 2017, the data showed.
China also brought in 590,000 tons of barley in June, down 5.6 percent from a year ago. Barley imports for the first half of the year were at 4.4 million tons, down 2.7 percent.
Wheat imports were at 310,000 tons in June, down 33.6 percent from a year ago. Wheat imports for the first half were at 1.95 million tons, down 26.4 percent, the data showed.
China bought 280,000 tons of sugar and 98,566 tons of pork in June. In the first half of the year, China’s sugar imports were at 1.38 million tons, and shipments of pork were at 647,985 tons, both down from last year’s levels.


US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

Updated 19 August 2018
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US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

  • Fears of oil scarcity no longer driver of US energy policy
  • Surging shale production brings energy abundance

WASHINGTON: Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the US, the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.
The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.
Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked US shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”
With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation — even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards. The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.
President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of “energy dominance” as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.
Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to “use energy wisely,” the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement.
Reaction was quick.
“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,’” said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.
“If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere ... you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”
Climate change is a “clear and present and increasing danger,” said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.
In a big way, the Energy Department statement just acknowledges the world’s vastly changed reality when it comes to oil.
Just 10 years ago, in summer 2008, oil prices were peaking at $147 a barrel and pummeling the global economy. OPEC was enjoying a massive transfer of wealth, from countries dependent on imported oil. Prices now are about $65.
Today, the US is vying with Russia for the title of top world oil producer. US oil production hit an all-time high this summer, aided by the technological leaps of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
How much the US economy is hooked up to the gas pump, and vice versa, plays into any number of policy considerations, not just economic or environmental ones, but military and geopolitical ones, said John Graham, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, now dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
“Our ability to play that role as a leader in the world is stronger when we are the strongest producer of oil and gas,” Graham said. “But there are still reasons to want to reduce the amount we consume.”
Current administration proposals include one that would freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, instead of continuing to make them tougher.
The proposal eventually would increase US oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day, the administration says. While Trump officials say the freeze would improve highway safety, documents released this month showed senior Environmental Protection Agency staffers calculate the administration’s move would actually increase highway deaths.
“American businesses, consumers and our environment are all the losers under his plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. “The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.”
Administration support has been tepid to null on some other long-running government programs for alternatives to gas-powered cars.
Bill Wehrum, assistant administration of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, spoke dismissively of electric cars — a young industry supported financially by the federal government and many states — this month in a call with reporters announcing the mileage freeze proposal.
“People just don’t want to buy them,” the EPA official said.
Oil and gas interests are campaigning for changes in government conservation efforts on mileage standards, biofuels and electric cars.
In June, for instance, the American Petroleum Institute and other industries wrote eight governors, promoting the dominance of the internal-combustion engine and questioning their states’ incentives to consumers for electric cars.
Surging US and gas production has brought on “energy security and abundance,” Frank Macchiarola, a group director of the American Petroleum Institute trade association, told reporters this week, in a telephone call dedicated to urging scrapping or overhauling of one US program for biofuels.
Fears of oil scarcity used to be a driver of US energy policy, Macchiarola said.
Thanks partly to increased production, “that pillar has really been rendered essentially moot,” he said.