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Deal to send US grain to China may be 'very close'

China and the United States are said to be "very close" to reaching agreement on one of the largest grain deals in history under which the US would supply China with between 6 and 9 million tons annually for three years. The Chinese urgently need guaranteed American grain supplies and have already been extremely active in the market. After a summer of disastrous weather, China's grain production is expected to fall by around 6 percent. Australia, a major traditional supplier to China, has sharply reduced estimates of its own crop and is expected to sharply reduce already agreed exports of 2 1/2 million tons annually to Peking.