China has started to buy corn from South Africa as it seeks to diversify sources of food supply and reduce its dependence on the US.

A cargo ship loaded with corn from South Africa recently arrived at the Mayong port in Guangdong province, southern China – reflecting efforts to diversify import sources. China had previously been dependent on the US and Ukraine for more than 90% of corn supplies, state newspaper Global Times said.

The shipment of 53,000 tonnes of feed corn on 4 May marked the beginning of regular shipments of South African corn to China, according to the Global Times.

South Africa is enjoying a bumper corn crop for a fourth year in a row, despite the season’s wet start. Corn – both yellow and white – represents 90% of South Africa’s total grain production. Yellow corn is generally destined to become feedstock, while white corn is sold for human consumption.

The country is Africa’s largest corn producer and one of its major exporters – also supplying white corn to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique, although Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam are the major markets.

However worsening weather conditions could lead to a smaller harvest, halting the country’s exports as a result.

The Global Times said China had also begun purchasing corn from Brazil in a push to reduce its dependence on US corn and had cancelled orders of corn from the US.

China is believed to be fearing that growing tensions with the US make it vulnerable to potential US food sanctions. Ukraine’s corn exports have been disrupted by the war with Russia.