Chinese Soybean Imports Value Growing
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China is the world’s largest Soybean importer, accounting for more than 60 percent of global trade. Customs data show that China imported 10.5 million tons of Soybeans in December 2022, higher than the 7.35 million tons in November and higher than the 8.87 million tons imported in December 2021, the highest level since June 2021. It was an 18-month high, as buyers actively purchased to ease domestic supply constraints. Lower-than-expected Soybean arrivals in previous months have pushed domestic soymeal prices to record levels.
The annual import volume in 2022 decreased by 5.6% from the previous year to 91 million tons. This is also the second consecutive year of year-on-year decline. Despite the volume reduction in imports, China’s Soybean imports reached US$61.2 billion in 2022, an increase of 14.4% from US$53.5 billion in 2021 due to the high price of imported Soybeans.
China’s Soybean imports were slow for most of 2022, as domestic crush margins are low and weak domestic feed demand affects Soybean meal demand. Rabobank expected China’s feed consumption to fall by 1% year-on-year in 2022 due to a decline in hogs and poultry. Rising global Soybean prices and last year’s drought that slowed shipments by barges from the Mississippi River to the U.S. Gulf have also affected Chinese imports. Domestic hog prices have fluctuated wildly over the past year, making it difficult for buyers to assess demand for Soybean meal and for importers to hesitate to make large purchases, waiting for more clarity on the supply and demand situation before deciding.
Looking ahead to 2023, Soybean demand growth will be supported by historically low domestic Soybean meal stocks and the reopening of the Chinese economy, helping to boost demand for commodities such as meat. However, considering the adjustment of feed formula in China’s aquaculture industry, the proportion of Soybean meal has been widely reduced, so it is difficult for Soybean imports to increase significantly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also lowered its forecast for China’s Soybean imports in 2022/23 by 2 million tons, from 98 million to 96 million, although it was still up 4.8 percent year-on-year. Rabobank predicted in a report in January that Chinese imports could drop to 87 million tons by 2025 and to 84 million tons by 2030.
China’s Soybean imports appear to have already hit their peak level and will gradually decline through 2030 as Beijing continues its effort to double down on food security, according to a new report. Customs data released in January also showed that China imported 915,000 tons of edible oil in December, and 6.5 million tons from January to December, a year-on-year decrease of 37.6%.
China Soybean Trade
According to the AgFlow data, the United States led its import market with 8.1 million tons of Soybeans in Jan-Feb, followed by Brazil (7.5 million tons), Canada (0.2 million tons), and Russia (19,600 tons). In 2020, China imported Soybeans worth $37.4 billion, becoming the 1st largest importer of Soybeans worldwide. In the same year, Soybeans was China’s 5th most imported product. China imports Soybeans primarily from: Brazil ($20.9 billion), the United States ($13.9 billion), Argentina ($1.87 billion), Russia ($266 million), and Uruguay ($214 million).
In 2020, China exported Soybeans worth $90.2 million, making it the 14th largest exporter of Soybeans in the world. In the same year, Soybeans was China’s 838th most shipped product. The leading destination of Soybeans exports from China is South Korea ($38 million), Japan ($21.2 million), Chinese Taipei ($2.81 million), Canada ($2.3 million), and Australia ($2.28 million).
Other sources: OILCN
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