China bought as much as 900,000 metric tons of a corn-based grain from the U.S. after the government was said to have approved lifting a ban on a genetically-modified variety of the crop.

China signed contracts for as many as 15 cargoes of dried distillers grain for shipment between December and March, according to a report today by the China National Grain and Oils Information Center. China is the largest buyer of the by-product known as DDGS, which is produced when corn is stripped of starch for ethanol production.

Purchases fell to as low as 100,000 tons in September and October after some cargoes were found to contain the unapproved MIR 162 strain of corn, according to Sylvia Shi, an analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Imports were as high as 600,000 tons in June, she said.

The government has told traders and officials that the Ministry of Agriculture has approved imports of the MIR 162, a genetically modified corn variety that’s commonly grown in the U.S., two people familiar with the matter said yesterday. They asked not to be identified because the information hasn’t been made public.

“We are all watching whether these newly-bought DDGS cargoes can discharge in Chinese ports smoothly,” said Xia Rui, an analyst at Shanghai Flow International Trade Co. “More deals will follow.”

China, the biggest market for U.S. food and agricultural products, is seen to be relaxing curbs on corn imports as the government pushes forward with a campaign to gain public acceptance of genetically modified organisms and seeks to expand food supplies.

Originally Pubslished: Bloomberg