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Brazil's soybean exports spike in March on coronavirus uncertainty

New Delhi — Brazil, the world's largest soybean exporter, shipped out 11.64 million mt of beans in March, up 38% year on year, according to Brazil's foreign trade department report released Thursday.

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As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, China, the world's largest soybean buyer, has started to ramp up its soy purchases, market sources said. In addition, enormous uncertainty hovers over port operations in the Americas amid pandemic fears, as trucking and port unions have threatened to shut operations due to the coronavirus.

While port authorities say they maintain normalized operations, there is a high probability of union strikes and shutdowns if the coronavirus death toll mounts, sources said. The novel coronavirus has already claimed over 46,000 lives worldwide.

The Brazilian soy crop year 2019-20 (October-September) has started to pick pace, which has made its beans more competitive against US-origin beans. Brazilian soybean sales peak in February-May every year, while US beans sales spike during the September-December period.

Brazil's soybean harvest reached 76% of the projected area of 36.4 million hectares in the 2019-20 crop year as of March 26, on par with last year's pace, agricultural consultancy AgRural said Monday.

According to average market estimates, Brazilian soybeans output is forecast at an all-time high range of 123 million-126 million mt for the 2019-20 crop year, which also increases its competitiveness against US-origin beans.

SOYBEX FOB Santos was assessed on Wednesday at $339.44/mt for May loadings, while SOYBEX FOB New Orleans was assessed at $345.30/mt, according to S&P Global Platts pricing data.

Brazil was forecast to export 72 million mt in 2019-20, up 3% on the year, while ending stocks were forecast down 39% to 2.18 million mt, national crop agency Conab said in its December report.