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Soybean exports inspection 2.4 million mt higher on year in 2020-21

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Delayed Brazilian planting means tight supplies in Q1 2021

New Delhi — US soybean November futures have been trending at a multi-year high on robust exports data and Brazilian planting delays, market sources told S&P Global Platts Oct. 6.

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November soybean futures were trading at $10.50/bu at 11:03 am CDT, up 28 cents on previous close on Chicago Board of Trade Oct. 6.

US soybean exports have been boosted by hefty Chinese demand in the 2020-21 marketing year (September-August) amid the Phase 1 trade deal commitments and strong hog herd recovery there, an agricultural analyst said.

US soybean export inspections are at 6.6 million mt as of the week ending Oct. 1, compared with 4.2 million mt a year ago, with over half of the shipments destined for China, the US Department of Agriculture report said Oct. 5.

China is expected to comply with Phase 1 trade deal commitments and buy more than 43 million mt of soybeans in 2020 itself, a China-based agro consultancy said earlier. So, the country's purchases of US soybeans are expected to break records in the coming months, it added.

Under the Phase 1 US-China trade deal, signed Jan. 15, Beijing has committed to buy $200 billion worth of US goods, including agricultural products valued at $80 billion between January 2020 and December 2021.

Typically, soybeans comprise more than half the value of US agricultural exports to China annually and so the oilseed plays a vital role in the trade deal.

China's pig herd recovery

China's pig herd rose 31.3% year on year while sow herd numbers rose 37% on the year in August, according to the latest Agricultural Ministry of China report.

The country lost more than 50% of its swine population to the African swine fever epidemic, which started in August 2018.

Following quarantine measures and the culling of more than 200 million pigs, the country's pig population has been on the path to recovery since late 2019.

The continuing recovery in China's swine and poultry production growth is expected to push up soybean demand in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

China's soybean imports in 2020-21 marketing years, which run from October to September, are forecast to touch an all-time-high volume of 99 million mt, the USDA said in September.

Delayed Brazilian planting

Brazilian soybean planting has been progressing at a very sluggish pace on extremely dry weather across the majority of the country, agricultural consultancy AgRural said Oct. 5.

Soybean farmers in Brazil have managed to plant only 1.6% of the total estimated area until Oct. 1, against 0.7% a week earlier, 3.1% in the same period last year, and 4.5% in the average of five years, according to data from AgRural.

Although a delayed soybean planting is not expected to affect total output, the harvest timing could lag a few weeks, which will be advantageous to US soybean farmers, market sources said.

Brazilian soybean harvest generally begins in February every year, but a delayed planting could push the harvest date a little further.

By the end of January, US soybean farmers sold the majority of their stocks, so a lagging Brazilian harvest means tight supply and high demand for US beans in the first quarter of 2021, an ideal scenario for the price spike.

If the Brazilian soybean harvest continues to be sluggish, November soybean futures could march toward $11/bu in coming weeks, because the strong demand from China is set to continue, market sources said.

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