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Brazilian soy planting delay fuels ebbing supplies fears in 2021 Q1

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China's pig herd recovery ensures robust soybean import demand

China's state-owned companies are expected to buy a substantial amount of US soybeans in coming weeks amid reports that the Chinese national reserve is set to auction a major portion of its soybeans stocks, market sources said.

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With Brazilian old crop soybeans practically sold out, coupled with planting delays of the new crop, tight supply of the oilseed is expected in the first quarter of 2021, so China's oilseed buyers are focused on US soybean purchases.

China is not ready to take any supply-side uncertainty in Q1 of 2021 and hence the state-owned companies are looking to clear their soybean reserves and purchase more US beans, a Chinese agricultural consultant said.

The Asian nation – world's largest beans purchaser – processes over 80% of imported soybeans into soybean meal, a prime ingredient for animal feed.

There has been a surge in domestic demand for raw soybeans in China as the country's pig herd recovers from the African swine fever.

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.

Boosted by a rising pig herd, China's soybean imports in 2020-21 (September-August) marketing year is forecast to touch an all-time high of 100 million mt, the US Department of Agriculture said in its latest supply and demand report Oct. 9.

China has been ramping up US beans in 2020-21 marketing year, accounting for over 66% of total US soy exports in September itself, the USDA said.

US soybean farmers have already shipped over 4.5 million mt of beans to China in 2020-21, up 4% on the five-year average, with another 17.5 million mt of oilseed set to sail in coming months to the Asian nation, the USDA's latest trade data showed.

Amid reports of Brazilian new crop planting delays, China's crushers are keen to cover for any supply-side uncertainty for raw soybeans, so US soybeans are at a distinct advantage until Q1 2021, analysts said.

A strong pace of US soybean sales to China is expected to support November soybean futures, which is already trading at over two-year high level of $10.50/bu average price for the past two weeks.