August 1, 2003



China's Soybean Imports in July Higher Than Expected But Prices Firm

A heavier than expected volume of imported soybeans entered China in July, but prices remained firm, largely due to concerns over high demurrage, as importers wait anxiously for quarantine permits for their cargoes, local traders and analysts in China said Friday.


In July, about 2.5 million to 2.6 million metric tons of imported soybeans arrived at ports in China, higher than earlier estimates of 2.2 million to 2.3 million tons, said traders and analysts.


"Based on our tracking report, about 2.5 (million) to 2.6 million tons of imported soybeans arrived, but the customs figure could be much lower, as at least 15 vessels couldn't (discharge their cargoes). The buyers are still waiting for import licenses from the government," a trader from a Hong Kong-based oilseeds company said.


In June, China's soybean imports reached 2.49 million tons, bringing imports in the first half of 2003 to 10.15 million tons, according to the latest Chinese custom data.


Despite the heavy arrivals of soybean cargoes, prices of imported soybeans have remained steady in the past month, around 2,500-2,600 yuan ($1=CNY8.28) a ton, said traders and analysts.


"The cost of imported soybeans is still high, especially when you take into account demurrage, which could amount to $10,000 a day," said a trader from China National Cereals, Oils & Foodstuffs Import Export Corp.


Some soybean cargoes have been stranded at ports for about a month as they wait for the quarantine authorities to issue them permits, said the Cofco trader.


Under China's strict rules on crops containing genetically modified organisms, importers need GMO quarantine permits before their cargoes can be unloaded. Lately, however, the authorities have been slow in issuing the permits.

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