China’s state-owned COFCO International Ltd (CIL) and US farm cooperative Growmark Inc have formed a partnership which will give China more direct access to imports such as soyabeans and corn.

“CIL aims to be recognised as a world-class global agribusiness,” said CIL CEO Johnny Chi. “A partnership with the second largest agricultural supply and grain cooperative in the United States links COFCO to the growers of the largest grain exporting region in the United States.”

The partnership, announced on 18 August, is COFCO’s latest expansion since it assumed full ownership of Noble Group’s agribusiness in December 2015 and a large stake in Dutch grain trader Nidera in 2014.

As part of the deal, the companies will jointly own and operate a truck, rail and barge terminal in Cahokia, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, the main pipeline that supplies exporters along the US Gulf Coast with corn and soybeans. COFCO acquired the terminal near the busy inland port of St Louis as part of its Nidera deal.

The facility can receive about 180,000 bushels/hour of grain, delivered by truck and rail, and can load two river barges simultaneously at a rate of about 60,000 bushels/hour, according to Brent Ericson, Growmark’s senior vice president for member services.

The USA is the world’s largest corn exporter and second largest soybean exporter.

“US agriculture exports to China totaled US$21bn in 2016,” said Growmark CEO Jim Spradlin. “China is the world’s largest importer of soyabeans and consistently ranks as our second largest agricultural export market.”

“The partnership provides new markets for our members and farmers and opens strategic partnerships around the world,” Ericson added.

COFCO operates across 35 countries, sourcing, processing, shipping and trading a wide range of raw materials, including grains and oilseeds, sugar, seeds, coffee and cotton.

It delivered more than 100M tonnes of products globally in 2016 with revenues in excess of US$35bn.

Growmark is an agricultural cooperative with annual sales of US$7bn.