UPDATE 1-China 2017 sugar imports drop a quarter to lowest since 2010

* Fall came as govt looked to protect local sugar farmers

* China 2017 corn imports hit 2.83 million T, lowest since 2014 (Adds detail, background)

BEIJING, Jan 23 (Reuters) - China, the world's top sugar importer, brought in 2.29 million tonnes of the sweetener in 2017, down 25.2 percent from the year before and the lowest since 2010, data showed on Tuesday.

That came in the wake of steps by China's government to protect local sugar farmers.

China's December sugar imports <SU-CN-IMP> dropped 38.7 percent to 130,000 tonnes, from 220,000 tonnes a year ago, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

December's imports were also down 19 percent from last month's 160,000 tonnes, the data showed.

China slashed its out-of-quota sugar import permits last year to 1 million tonnes, down from 1.9 million tonnes in the previous year.

It also imposed hefty tariffs on foreign shipments, following years of lobbying by domestic sugar farmers and mills.

Chinese sugar refineries, struggling with raw material shortages as a result, said late last year that they planned to lobby Beijing to increase out-of-quota sugar imports.

The country also brought in 2.83 million tonnes of corn in 2017, the lowest since 2014, according to the data.

That was down 10.8 percent from 3.17 million tonnes in 2016. The world's second-largest corn consumer has reformed a stockpiling program, which had artificially supported domestic prices well above international levels.

China's December corn imports <CO-CN-IMP>, rose 221.1 percent to 450,000 tonnes, from 141,431 tonnes during the same month in 2016, according to the data.

Shipments have picked up in recent months as a rally in domestic prices pushed buyers towards to cheaper overseas cargoes.

(Reporting by Hallie Gu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Joseph Radford)