China's output of edible oil is expected to grow by just 2% to 3% while domestic supplies may fall short of demand by 23.5 million tons annually in the next five years, Wang Yinji, manager of the oil division of Cofco, China's biggest grain and oil producer and trader, said at the China International Oils and Oilseeds Conference 2011.

China's demand for oil and oilseeds would have to be 75% dependent on imports by 2015/16, when the nation would need to import as much as 70 million tons of oilseeds and 10.05 million tons of edible oil, Wang warned.

China's annual production of oilseeds in recent years hovered around 46 million tons, including 15 million tons of soybeans and 10 million tons of rapeseeds, due to limited growing area and productivity. In 2010/11, China needed to import 52.5 million tons of soybeans and 630,000 tons of rapeseeds to squeeze into edible oil.  It also imported 7.95 million tons of edible oil directly to fill last year's 17.9 million-ton shortage, Wang said.

However, China's demand for edible oil has reached a plateau during which growth in annual demand is projected to range between 3% and 5% while consumption will restructure, according to Wang.

By 2015, packed oil will make up 40% of China's overall edible oil market, or 14 million tons, and a decrease in consumption of soybean oil and blended oil will come with an increase in consumption of healthier oils, such as sunflower seed oil and maize oil, Wang added.

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