LONDON — China will supplant the Soviet Union as the largest importer of wheat in the current trading year that ends in June, the International Wheat Council said today.
A below-target harvest and rising population have pushed up China's import needs.
The Soviet Union will, however, remain the biggest importer of grain overall, added the council, a trade organization.
It said that after a poor harvest, total Soviet imports of both wheat and coarse grains, which include corn and barley, would be up about 13% at 35 million metric tons.
The council also slightly raised its estimate of the total world grain crop, meaning that stocks held against emergencies may not be as tight as had been feared after last year's U.S. drought and the lower Soviet and Chinese harvests.
The council said that China's wheat imports in 1988-89 would surpass previous record purchases of 15.3 million tons in 1987-88. The Soviet Union is expected to import 14 million tons of wheat.
Chinese purchases of coarse grains would bring Beijing's total grain imports to 16.6 million tons this year.