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Tight South American supply restricting EU soybean meal imports

Highlights

Raw soybean purchases up 5% on year at 8.3 mil mt

Netherlands, Spain, Denmark top soybean importers

New Delhi — EU soybean meal imports have continued their downtrend since the start of the 2020-21 marketing year (July-June) amid limited supply from its top two suppliers, Argentina and Brazil, market sources said.

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The EU's soybean meal imports fell 9% year on year to 9.9 million mt between the start of the 2020-21 marketing year on July 1 and Jan. 24, while raw soybean purchases were 5% higher at 8.3 million mt, imported primarily from the US, according to the European Commission on Jan. 25.

Soybean meal crushers and traders in Argentina and Brazil are facing raw bean supply bottlenecks. While Brazilian soybean farmers have limited stocks to sell, Argentinian farmers are reluctant to trade their oilseed inventories due to the government's tax and revenue policies, market sources said.

Frequent strikes by port workers were not helping exports of Argentinian soybean products. As a result, the South American soy crushing industry has been operating below capacity due to the shortage of raw beans.

Both, Argentina and Brazil are facing delayed harvest prospect for the 2020-21 crop, which complicates the situation even further, analysts said.

Additionally, Brazil has experienced high domestic demand for soybean meal-based animal feed because of growing beef, pork and poultry demand from Asia, a Brazilian agriculture analyst said.

That meant average raw beans prices were 30% higher year on year at $12.50-$13.00/bushel, he said.

Argentina and Brazil -- the world's top two soymeal suppliers -- account for more than 85% of EU soybean meal imports.

Since the start of the 2020-21 marketing year, Brazilian soybean meal has accounted for 44.7% of the EU's imports at 4.44 million mt, while Argentina -- the world's top soybean meal supplier -- had a 39.7% share at 3.94 million mt, the data showed.

Raw soybean imports

US soybean has been rapidly creeping up as the primary soybean supplier to the EU amid the South American supply woes.

The US's market share of EU imports in the 2020-21 marketing year was 44.7%, or 3.7 million mt, while Brazil's share was 34.5%, or 2.8 million mt.

Other major soybean suppliers to the EU were Canada, Ukraine and Serbia, the EC said.

The Netherlands remained the EU's top buyer of raw beans, followed by Spain and Denmark, the data showed.

In the previous marketing year, the EU's soybean meal imports rose 1% year on year to 18.05 million mt, while raw soybean purchases rose 1% to 15.36 million mt, according to the data.

Strong raw soybean demand from the EU was expected to support futures prices, as the region -- one of the top meat producers -- was expected to increase its beef and beef exports to Asia, particularly China, an analyst said.