China is expected to post an unprecedented $5.5(US) billion agricultural trade deficit in 2004. Agricultural trade imports were expected to reach $28 billion and exports will come in at about $22.5 billion, the China Daily said, citing Ministry of Agriculture data.

The deficit was partly a result of wider market access to foreign commodities as the country consistently fulfilled commitments to reduce tariff rates on agricultural goods and implemented tariff-rate quotas. The record agricultural trade deficit was also due to markets in Europe and the United States offering hefty subsidies on agricultural products, which distorted market prices.

In 2002, just after its WTO entry, China imported some $11.8 billion of agricultural products, while exporting $16 billion worth. This jumped to $18.9 billion of imports in 2003, against $21.4 billion worth of exports, the newspaper said.