China's Dalian corn climbed to an all-time high on Friday, on track for its biggest weekly gain in almost a year as the market was buoyed by tight domestic supply that is fuelling talk of larger imports.
The rally in China's corn market is expected to propel global grain prices higher as it will take at least six months before new-crop supplies in the United States, the world's top exporter, replenish stocks estimated to be at their lowest in 16 years.
"That the government has purchased very little indicates the domestic market has risen to take supplies away from the government," said Paul Deane, agricultural commodity strategist at ANZ.
"It is very supportive of grain markets globally as the tightest part of the year in terms of supplies has yet to come."
The most-active September contract on Dalian jumped about 2 percent to as high as 2,497 yuan ($390) per tonne, taking gains so far this year to about 10 percent, outstripping a 3.2 percent gain in the global benchmark US corn futures .
US corn was trading at $262.8 a tonne by 0746 GMT.
Sinograin, the manager of China's state grain reserves, has stockpiled only 1.2 million tonnes of corn from last year's harvest since December, an industry website quoted a company official as saying on Thursday.
The volume was just over a tenth of the 11 million tonnes stockpiled as "temporary reserves" from the 2010 harvest, Song Zhiyuan, an official with the purchase department of Sinograin, told a conference, the website, www.ex-starch.com, reported.
"Yields in northern China are lower because of the weather and a lack of sunlight so it is clear that supplies are getting tighter," said Wang Na, agricultural analyst with Everbright Futures in Dalian.
"Imports are likely to increase as supplies are just not sufficient."
While fundamentals are boosting Dalian corn, technical charts also indicate that prices could rise further, Reuters market analyst Wang Tao said.
Dalian third month corn contract is expected to rise to 2,700 yuan per tonne over the next four weeks, to post a gain of about nine percent from the current level.