China's foreign trade in farm produce went into deficit in the first two months of this year, as opposed to a surplus for the same period last year, the Ministry of Agriculture revealed on Tuesday.
Both exports and imports of farm produce increased in the January-February period, but the former was dwarfed by the latter in terms of growth, said a ministry official who declined to be named.
This indicated the government's efforts to restrict farm produce exports to ensure domestic supply had begun to pay off, said Chen Hongzhou, an analyst with the Galaxy Securities.
The first two months saw China's foreign trade in farm produce reach $14.67 billion, up 38.6 percent on the same period of last year.
The total included $6.3 billion in export value, up 7.4 percent, and $8.36 billion in import value, up 77.4 percent. The trade deficit was $2.06 billion, as against a trade surplus of $1.15 billiona year earlier.
China exported 673,000 tons of cereals, down 71.5 percent, and imported 378,000 tons, down 10.5 percent. The net exports declined 84.8 percent to 295,000 tons.
Net exports of rice increased against price rises on international markets. The country exported 345,000 tons of paddy (mainly rice), up 35.6 percent, and imported 139,000 tons, up 13.4 percent. The net exports went up 56 percent to 207,000 tons.
However, net exports of maize and wheat fell noticeably -- by 96.5 percent and 17 percent respectively.
Meanwhile, edible vegetable oil exports declined. China exported 31,000 tons of edible vegetable oil in January and February, down 25.9 percent, and imported 1.26 million tons, up 7.3 percent.
The government has listed curbing grain exports in the priority work agenda of the State Council for 2008. Prior to this, it scrapped export rebates for wheat, paddy, rice, maize and soybean. It has decided to levy export duties ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent on these products this year. The country also has begun to impose export quota management on wheat powder, maize powder and rice powder.
According to the General Administration of Customs, in the first quarter, China exported 600,000 tons of rice, up 39.4 percent on the same period of last year, and 80,000 tons of maize, down 97.2 percent. The country increased imports of soybean by 36 percent to 7.78 million tons, up 140.8 percent, and bought in 2.01 million tons of edible vegetable oil, up 9.1 percent.