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30 Oct 2023

Econ Digest

Projected decline in China’s cereal imports may cause Thai cassava and rice exports to China to shrink in 2023-2024


        China’s cereal imports have declined so far during 2023 in line with its slow economic recovery, which has in turn dampened its domestic demand. Owing to the substantially high base of 2022 and the destocking of cereals and food crops after China increased such stockpiles to ensure food security during COVID-19, tumbling prices of agricultural commodities worldwide have pressured new purchase orders of cereals from China. As China is Thailand’s largest agricultural export market, Thailand’s cassava and rice exports to China will inevitably be affected.  
        During the rest of 2023, KResearch expects that China’s overall demand for cereals will remain weak, although the country may need some cereals to meet year-end domestic requirements and resupply many provinces following recent inundations. Moreover, the El Niño phenomenon that may partly damage Thailand’s cassava and rice production in 4Q2023 will likely cause such Thai shipments to China to decline. Given this, the value of Thai cassava and rice exports to China may contract 15.0% and 28.5%, respectively, to USD2,429 million and USD276 million in 2023.  
        Looking ahead, Thai cassava and rice exports to China will continue to face more challenges over the short to medium-term, as China’s agricultural development plan aims to gradually boost its agricultural productivity at home, particularly for soybeans and corn. As China’s domestic consumption may not grow substantially on the back of the fact its economy may take a while to recover, and its GDP may not resume growth on par with pre-COVID-19 levels, China’s imports of cereals and food crops will gradually decline, especially cassava. Thai cassava shipments to China, therefore, will be significantly affected because their share of Thailand’s agricultural exports to China is relatively high, and cassava is a major substitute for corn and soybeans for which China is increasing production. In 2024, it is expected that Thai cassava exports to China will contract at 4.5-8.6%, while the impact on Thai rice shipments to China will be limited because Thai rice exports to China are relatively low due primarily to the impacts of the El Niño phenomenon on Thai rice production. As a result, Thai rice shipments to China may contract at 4.0-7.6% in 2024.
        To minimize the potential impacts in the future, Thai exporters are advised to explore new markets with brighter prospects to replace China, which Thailand is heavily dependent on, including the US, India, Saudi Arabia and Japan. Additionally, Thailand’s agro-processing industry should focus on quality and value-added products, including organic rice and gluten-free flour, to meet demand in specific markets.

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