China, facing high corn prices, buys more from U.S.

CHICAGO, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Chinese buyers struck deals to buy 195,000 tonnes of American corn, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday, as China grapples with spiking domestic prices.

China's demand for corn to feed animals has increased as its pig herd has rebounded more quickly than expected from a deadly swine disease first detected in the country two years ago.

Chicken producers are also pushing ahead with aggressive expansion plans, according to traders in China.

Chinese corn inventories have dwindled following years of government efforts to whittle down a previously massive stockpile.

Larger imports from the United States could help Beijing fulfill a pledge to buy more U.S. farm products as part of a Phase 1 trade deal with Washington.

Halfway through the year, China is still far behind the pace needed to meet its commitment of buying $36.5 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods under the Phase 1 agreement. The United States exported $7.274 billion in farm goods to China through June, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The USDA last announced a sale of U.S. corn to China in its daily reporting system on July 30, when Chinese buyers made a record single-day purchase of 1.937 million tonnes.

From January to June, the U.S. exported 404,760 tonnes of corn to China, up from 194,503 tonnes over the same period a year earlier, according to the USDA.

On Monday, the agency also announced separate sales of 130,000 tonnes of U.S. corn and soybeans to unknown buyers. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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