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China 2019-20 soybean demand may hit up to 90 mil mt on pig herd recovery: Platts Analytics

Singapore — China's soybean demand in the 2019-20 marketing year (October-September) could reach up to 90 million mt, up 9% year on year and 6% higher than the USDA's December WASDE report, due to a recovery in pig and sow herds in recent months, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

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China's hog production capacity has continued to recover, with breeding sow herds restocked for three consecutive months since September, according to Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. In December, sow herds in China grew 2.2% month on month, it said.

China's pig feed production has been on a four-month rising streak since September, sources said. In December, the pig feed increased 2% month on month.

"The robust restocking of hog production (since September) laid a solid foundation for accelerated soybean demand recovery in China in 2020," a Shanghai-based crusher said.

China -- the world's largest pork producer and consumer -- lost over 40% of its pig population from August 2018 due to an outbreak of African swine fever. Simultaneously, the country's demand for soybean-based animal feed dropped drastically.

China is the world's largest purchaser of soybeans and processes over 80% of its imported beans into high protein animal feed.

The outbreak of the highly infectious and incurable ASF hit local pig breeders and soybean crushers hard. However, Chinese pig numbers are expected to recover in 2020 as large pig farming companies have started to consolidate, while most small and medium-sized pig farms have been wiped out after millions of pigs were culled, according to the USDA's October Global Agricultural Information Network report.

China's soybean crushing industry is optimistic for 2020 due to the consolidation of the local pork industry, which enables better pig inventory management and biosecurity measures.

"Pig farmers and feed millers have been more active, with stronger confidence to rebuild feedstocks," a crusher said. "Especially in the fourth quarter of 2019, feed millers enthusiastically purchased soybean meal forward cargos, largely long contracts with deliveries in the second or third quarters of 2020."

After sow herds begin to recover, it usually takes six months for soybean demand to pick up notably.

-- Analyst Ivy Li, ivy.li@spglobal.com

-- Asim Anand, aanand@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Fox, newsdesk@spglobal.com