The ministry did not explain why it increased its import number in the monthly China Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, but said corn consumption in the year that began in October would increase by 5 million tonnes on its earlier estimate to 250.8 million tonnes.

Higher demand will be driven by feed makers using more corn to compensate for falling sorghum imports from the United States and barley from Australia, it said.

China has put a 25 percent import duty on sorghum from the United States as part of a raft of trade duties. It also launched an anti-dumping probe into Australian barley last month.

Australia is by far its leading supplier of barley, which is used in the animal feed industry.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)