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China's soybean imports to decline in 2020-21 despite pig herd recovery: USDA

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China's soybean imports to decline in 2020-21 despite pig herd recovery: USDA

Highlights

China's 2019-20 robust soy purchases ensure high stocks

Pig herd recovery strong, but not enough to support soy import rise

Crush demand to rise in 2020-21

New Delhi — China's soybean imports are expected to slide in 2020-21 marketing year (October – September) to 95 million mt, down 3.5% year on year, despite pig herd recovery as excessive beginning stocks linger following a buying spree in 2019-20, the US Department of Agriculture's attache report released Nov. 3 said.

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With a revised down forecast for 2020-21 soybean imports from the world's largest beans importer, soybeans futures prices are expected to be under pressure in coming days.

CBOT November soybean futures prices have been trending at a four-year high in recent weeks with the average price range of $10.50/bu - $10.70/bu.

But going forward, the soy futures prices could be under tremendous pressure on China's demand slowdown, which seems to have begun already.

China's state-owned companies -- top buyers of US soybeans – have not been purchasing the US-origin oilseed in the past couple of weeks with the same intensity as seen in September.

"Despite the ambiguity surrounding buying target linked to the Phase 1 trade deal, Chinese crushers may have already finished buying their quota of US soybeans for the 2020-21 season, " a shanghai based agriculture commodities broker said.

HIGH BEGINNING STOCKS

Driven by concerns about coronavirus pandemic-related supply disruptions and an uncertain bilateral relationship with the US, China imported an estimated 98.5 million mt of soybeans in 2019-20 -- a record high, the USDA attache report said.

As a result, the Asian nation has accumulated a high volume of beginning stocks for the 2020-21 marketing year.

Although feed production and soybean crush are projected to continue growing in 2020-21 to meet demand from the recovering swine herd and growing poultry sector, the beginning of a gradual drawdown in stocks is expected to constrain soybean imports in 2020-21, the report said.

RISING CRUSH DEMAND

The 2020-21 forecasts for soybean crush and soybean meal feed use are both higher than the USDA' Foreign Agricultural Services China estimate for 2019-20 based on a growing sow inventory and the increasing share of large-scale operations in the swine sector, the report said.

According to a Chinese government survey, the sow inventory has reached 80% of its pre-African Swine Fever levels.

China lost over 50% of its swine population to ASF, which started in August 2018. Following large scale quarantine measures and the culling of more than 200 million pigs, the country's pig population has been on the path of recovery since late-2019.

According to the latest Agricultural Ministry of China's report, the country's pig herd increased by 31.3% year on year, while the sow herd had risen 37% on the year in August.

Soy crush for 2020-21 in China is forecast at 95 million mt compared to 90 million mt the previous year, while soybean meal feed use is projected to reach 73 million mt this marketing year, a 4 million mt increase over the FAS China estimate for 2019-20, the attache added.

Some agricultural analysts remain optimistic on China's soybean imports despite the USDA attache's forecast.

US-China Phase 1 trade deal commitments should make sure that China's purchases accumulate to over 80 million mt of US soybeans between January 2020 and December 2021 calendar years, analysts said.