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China Cuts 2017 Corn Acreage 4% in Bid to Tackle Giant Stockpiles

BEIJING, April 17 (Reuters) - China's planned corn acreage will fall 4 percent this year, its second straight annual drop, as Beijing tries to whittle down its huge corn glut and boost the planting of soybeans.

The shrinking corn acreage will be accompanied by an 8.1 percent jump in land dedicated to soybean crops this year, according to a survey of 110,000 Chinese farmers by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The NBS released the percentage changes in acreage planted on Monday.

The estimates are in line with market expectations, according to analysts.

"Reducing corn acreage and increasing soybean planting is the government policy," said Fan Jingya, an analyst with COFCO Futures.

Beijing is sitting on close to 250 million tonnes of corn, equal to more than a year of consumption - a legacy of its almost decade-long stockpiling system. The glut prompted Beijing included cutting corn areas and raising soybean planting in a five-year government plan issued last year.

Corn acreage was set to fall by 0.7 percent annually in the next four years to reach 500 million mu (33.3 million hectares) by 2020, according to the plan. Soybean areas will grow to 140 million mu by 2020, up from 98 million mu in 2015, the same plan said. A mu is a Chinese term for a measurement of land equal to about 0.067 hectares.

Meanwhile, the nation's planned acreage dedicated to wheat will fall 0.8 percent in 2017, while that for rice and cotton will go down 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent respectively, the survey showed.

The NBS survey shows a smaller percentage decline in corn acreage than China's Agriculture Ministry forecasted last week.

Corn acreage for 2016/17 will drop 5.4 percent from the previous year to 36 million hectares, according to the Chinese Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (CASDE) issued by the ministry.

Soybean acreage for 2016/17 will rise 8.5 percent to 7 million hectares, according to the same CASDE report. (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Christian Schmollinger)

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