UPDATE 1-Cargill says idling North Carolina soy processor this spring

Thu Jan 30, 2014 6:08pm EST

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Cargill Inc will idle its soybean processing plant in Raleigh, North Carolina, this spring amid reduced demand for U.S. soymeal due to large soy harvests in South America, the company said on Thursday.

"In recent years, demand for U.S. soybean processing has become more variable and seasonally driven," Mark Stonacek, president of Cargill's North American grain and oilseed supply chain, said in a statement. "Cargill will continue to monitor the global situation and will consider restarting the plant if conditions change."

The company will still operate an elevator at the Raleigh location, purchasing soybeans from farmers and other commercial sellers, it said.

Many U.S. processing plants typically shut down for a week or more during the spring or summer months for annual maintenance during a time when supplies from the autumn harvest begin to dwindle.

Harvest is underway in South America, where Brazil and Argentina are expected to produce record crops, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. The big harvests could make it cost effective for hog and poultry producers concentrated in the southeastern United States to import soymeal rather than buying from local crushers, analysts and traders said.

"You have an issue that becomes problematic when inbound meal can be competitive," said Dale Durchholz, analyst at Agrivisor LLC.

Imports of soymeal into the southeast could force other nearby processors to idle but are unlikely to significantly affect operations in the U.S. Midwest region where most soybeans are crush and processed, Durchholz said.

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