China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has approved two genetically modified (GM) corn varieties for import at a time of surging demand for animal feed, Bloomberg reports.

Corn imports had reached record levels due to the rebuilding of the country’s hog industry following African swine fever (ASF), the 11 January report said.

As of 31 October 2020, the ministry reported 88% of hog production recovering to pre-ASF levels, S&P Global Platts wrote on 29 December.

Hog population was reported at 378M head, up 27% on the year, and sow population recovered for the 13th consecutive month and was seen 32% higher on the year, according to the ministry.

"Feed demand in China will continue to grow as swine inventories will be rebuilt over the next several months and I expect they will continue to recover and may even be fully restored as early as the end of 2021," said US Grains China director Bryan Lohmar,

The two new GM corn varieties approved for import are the glyphosate-resistant and insect-resistant MON87411 sold by Bayer’s Crop Science unit, and MZIR098 produced by Swiss agri-science company Syngenta AG. The strains have been approved for five years starting December 2020.

The ministry is also set to approve a GM corn and a GM soyabean variety developed by local company Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group, according to Reuters.

The government had never allowed cultivation of GM soyabean or corn varieties but recently said it wanted to support biotech breeding to boost food security, the news agency said on 11 January.

The glufosate and glufosinate-resistant DBN9004 soyabean had already been approved as safe in Argentina, where Dabeinong was seeking commercial production.

The DBN9501 corn variety was resistant to the armyworm pest, which last year reached China’s corn belt region.

Reuters said a public comment period was now open until 1 February and although further steps were needed before cultivation could begin, the move towards approval was timely given a growing corn deficit in the world’s top grain grower.