8th May, 2006: BEIJING, CHINA - China's Shenzhen Hualian Grains and Oils Trading Co. said on Monday it was still awaiting a permit from Beijing's quarantine authority to unload 100 tonnes of corn from the United States.
The trading house had bought 100 tonnes of genetically modified (GMO) corn from the United States, in what was seen as a test case if Beijing would allow more of such imports in future.
An official from Hualian said it needed a permit from Beijing in addition to approval from Guangdong's provincial quarantine authority.
"We do not see serious problems as the local quarantine bureau has approved it," the official said.
He said the corn was bought on behalf of a local feed mill which has import quotas.
He said the containers had arrived in Hong Kong and would stay there for several days before being transported to Huangpu port in the province.
"We initiated the import just to check where the problem could be before several 10,000 tonnes of imports," he said.
Traders and industry officials have said China, a major exporter of corn only a few years ago, might emerge as a net importer of the grain as early as next year because the nation's demand is rising faster that its production.
"Everybody is watching Hualian because this is the first," said a senior trader at an international grain trading house.
"If China lets in 100 tonnes, maybe it will be 2,000 tonnes next time, and after that 30,000 tonnes. People are going to test the market," said the trader.
Dealers said another Chinese buyer had booked 100 tonnes of U.S. corn to be shipped in containers if the first U.S. corn cargo cleared the quarantines without problems.