The larger presence of Chinese commodities companies in Brazil has increased competition for grains and is one factor behind a recent corn shortage, a leading consultant said on Thursday. “We have seen more competition for grains in the center-west, where the Chinese now have storage space,” MB Associados partner Jos Roberto Mendona de Barros said during a presentation at the BM&F Bovespa agricultural outlook seminar. “That partly explains the corn problem.”

A heavy flow of Brazilian corn exports last year, helped by a weak currency, sharply reduced local supplies this year. As a result, poultry and pork processors had to import the grain. A recent analysis of shipping data by Reuters found that Asian trading houses, including China’s state-owned COFCO, had bought 45 percent of Brazil’s soybean, corn and soybean meal exports last year.

In April, Brazilian grains company Fiagril Participants SA sold a controlling stake to China’s Hunan Dakang Pasture Farming Co Ltd, a unit of Shanghai Pengxin Group Co. Barros said the increased competition was healthy for producers, but meat companies would have to adjust. (Meat processors) were accustomed to seeing a bag of corn in Mato Grosso costing as much as a sandwich,” he said. Barros also said increased local competition had hurt traditional international grain traders such as Bunge Ltd and Archer Daniels Midland Co.