As is occurring in the United States, unseasonably cold and wet weather is causing farmers to delay planting as much as two weeks in northeast China, China's largest corn production region.

In the northernmost province of Heilongjiang, only a small proportion of land is planted and further delays are expected to cause farmers to switch out of corn and plant soybeans, according to China's JCI Intelligence and Yumi.com, two agricultural market reporting firms.

However, JCI reports that corn acreage is expanding in Inner Mongolia, and this partly offsets the reduced acreage in Heilongjiang.

Delayed planting may also affect yields as farmers turn to shorter-season and lower-yielding varieties, and make the region more vulnerable to an early frost.

The possible reduction of corn sown area in northeast China may be mitigated by expanded corn sown area in north China.

"Peanut area expanded last year and this reduced corn sown area expansion on the North China Plain. However, peanut prices are currently 20 percent below last year, which could provide more opportunity for corn area to expand in that region this year," said Bryan Lohmar, U.S. Grains Council's director in China.

Soybeans also receive some price support.

While corn prices are roughly at or just below the levels during last year's northeast planting season, soybean prices are 10-15 percent higher than last year. Higher prices, coupled with lower-yielding, short-season corn varieties and higher corn production costs, also make expected soybean returns vis-à-vis expected corn returns look better than in than past years in the northern parts of the Northeast production region.

Heilongjiang Province has seen corn area expand significantly in the past few years as high corn prices have caused more and more farmers to switch out of soybeans and into corn.

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Statistics from China's National Grain and Oilseed Information Center show corn area in Heilongjiang rose more than 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) from 2009 to 2012, comprising more than 26 percent of the 3.8 million hectare (9.4 million acre) expansion in corn sown area over that period in China. Heilongjiang is also China's biggest corn producing province, with 14.6 percent of China's 2012 corn production.

The four northeast provinces (Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia) together produced 42.9 percent of China's corn in 2012.

The wet weather in the northeast is good for soil moisture, but is raising corn planting costs as farmers reduce machine planting and instead plant by hand to be sure to get corn planted on time.

The five North China Plain Provinces (Shandong, Henan, Hebei, Anhui, and Jiangsu) together produced 29.3 percent of China's corn in 2012. Most corn planting on the North China Plain occurs in July, after harvesting a winter wheat crop in the region.

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