GRAINS-Corn extends gains, set for best week since July on China demand

(Updates prices, adds analyst comment)

Jan 29 (Reuters) - Corn prices advanced on Friday and were set for their biggest weekly gain in nearly seven months, buoyed by rising demand and tight supply in major importer China.

The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) most-active corn contract climbed 0.8% to $5.39 a bushel by 0627 GMT.

The benchmark contract, which rose to $5.50-1/2 in the previous session - the highest price since June 2013 - was up nearly 8% this week, its biggest weekly jump since early July.

“CBOT corn recovered losses made over the last week ... with China’s demand for U.S. corn remaining very strong,” commodity strategists at ING said in a note.

China, which had been relatively quiet in the U.S. corn market since its record buying streak last summer, has returned with a string of much more expensive bookings this week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week confirmed three separate sales of U.S. corn to China, totalling 3.74 million tonnes, or 147 million bushels, for delivery in the 2020-21 year that ends on Aug. 31.

China’s robust corn demand helped push soybean and wheat prices higher, traders said, with both benchmark contracts also on track for weekly gains.

Soybean rose 0.3% to $13.57-3/4 a bushel, while rising corn prices pushed demand for wheat, which gained 0.1% to $6.47-3/4 a bushel, as a feed substitute for livestock.

Hot weather has prompted Argentina, the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, to shave estimate for its upcoming soy crop to 46 million tonnes, from 46.5 million tonnes earlier.

U.S. soybean crushings likely rose to 5.817 million short tons in December, or 193.9 million bushels, according to a Reuters poll of analysts ahead of a monthly U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Harvesting delays in Brazilian soybean fields would likely continue throughout February after a drought pushed back plantings of the oilseeds, according to Thaís Italiani, market intelligence coordinator at Hedgepoint Global Markets.

Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila; Editing by Rashmi Aich