By Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu
BEIJING, June 23 (Reuters) - China’s imports of sorghum in May rose 59 percent year on year to 470,000 tonnes, customs data showed on Saturday, despite an anti-dumping move by Beijing a month earlier that had roiled the grains trade.
The surprisingly large number came even after China announced in mid-April that importers of sorghum from the United States would have to put up a 178.6 percent deposit on the value of shipments.
Several cargoes of the U.S.-grown grain, used in livestock feed and the fiery Chinese liquor baijiu, were already on the water at the time, but changed course and were sold in other markets.
But China dropped an anti-dumping investigation into U.S. imports on May 18, and the data suggests that several cargoes that had not been diverted cleared Chinese customs in the final weeks of the month.
Still, the May volumes were down from the previous month’s 640,000 tonnes, when buyers brought in large volumes of the grain ahead of the start of the anti-dumping deposit.
Volumes are likely to fall further after China included the grain in a list of products that will attract tariffs of 25 percent from July 6.
The data from the General Administration of Customs does not break down the imports by country, but China imports nearly all of its sorghum from the United States in trade worth about $1.1 billion in 2017.
Still, despite an escalating trade row with the United States that has cast a chill over the agricultural sector, other figures released on Saturday showed farm imports have remained robust.
Barley imports rose 23.3 percent to 770,000 tonnes, while corn imports surged to 760,000 tonnes versus last year’s 42,000 tonnes.
Wheat imports rose 24.8 percent year on year to 630,000 tonnes.
Even pork imports in May were relatively strong at 115,322 tonnes, down 3.6 percent year on year, but up from April’s 110,098 tonnes.
China has levied a 25 percent duty on most U.S. pork items since April 2 and will add further duties next month.
High domestic production of pork this year was also expected to curb imports.
Shipments of fresh and dried fruits and nuts rose 16.3 percent year on year in May to 530,000 tonnes but dropped slightly from the previous month’s 560,000 tonnes.
China has also targeted U.S. fruit and nuts with hefty tariffs.
China brought in 6.42 million cubic metres of logs in May, up 49.5 percent from last year, after China stopped heightened inspections of the wood arriving from the United States.
Customs did not release the final batch of detailed May trade data, after advising last week that it had been temporarily suspended.
Reporting by Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu Editing by Stephen Coates