March 11, 2019
China's soybean imports fall to monthly lowest in February
At 4.46 million tonnes, China's soybean imports in February had plunged 17% -compared to February 2018 - to their lowest monthly level in four years, Reuters reported.
According to customs data, buying slowed due to uncertainties over trade relations with the US and flat demand for soymeal. "The low figures were still mainly because of tariffs on US soybeans," said Tian Hao, senior analyst with First Futures.
"Importers did not buy lots of Brazilian beans recently either, as they were waiting to buy US soybeans, amid optimism of a final Sino-US trade deal," Tian said. "What is more, there were no commercial benefits to bring in Brazilian soybeans as demand was flat due to African swine fever outbreaks."
Chinese buyers had been scooping up on Brazilian beans but such purchases have slowed recently as China and the US made major progress in trade talks aimed at ending a lengthy trade dispute.
The February figures were also 40% down from 7.38 million tonnes in January, the data showed, as crushers slowed production during the Lunar New Year holiday. Soybean imports usually ease in the month of the week-long festival, which fell in early February this year, as businesses close.
For the first two months of 2019, imports fell to 11.83 million tonnes, down 15% from the same time a year ago.
Shipments this year have dropped as a highly contagious African swine fever outbreak has impacted the world's largest pig herd, curbing demand for soybeans for use in animal feed.
China would get most of its oilseeds from the US in the fourth quarter and early in the new year after the US harvest comes to market. However, buyers have stayed clear of US cargoes due to tariffs imposed on soybeans amid the ongoing trade tensions.
The two countries agreed to a trade truce on December 1. Chinese firms have so far bought about 10 million tonnes of US soybeans for delivery in the first months of 2019, although a 25% tariff on US shipments remains in place.