China February soybean imports from U.S. rise as trade dispute eased

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s imports of soybeans from the United States in February surged from January as the cargoes booked following a truce in the trade war between the two countries arrived, according to customs data published on Monday.

Workers transport imported soybean products at a port in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

China brought in 907,754 tonnes of U.S. soybeans in February, up from 135,814 tonnes in January, the General Administration of Customs said.

However, that was just a fraction of the 3.35 million tonnes imported in February 2018 as Beijing’s hefty tariffs on U.S. shipments curbed purchases.

China, the world’s biggest oilseed importer, agreed to resume some U.S. soybean purchases after U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on Dec. 1 to a 90-day truce in their trade dispute.

China typically buys soybeans from the United States in the last quarter and the first couple of months of the year, when the U.S. harvest dominates the market. But Chinese buyers have steered clear of U.S. produce amid the tit-for-tat trade dispute and scooped up Brazilian beans instead.

Chinese imports of the oilseed from America, its second-largest supplier, fell sharply last year and ground to a halt in November.

Limited buying resumed after the two countries agreed to the truce, but China only bought 9.4 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans through the end of February, down from 27.7 million tonnes at the same time a year earlier.

It committed to buy an additional 10 million tonnes during talks in Washington last month, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Twitter on Feb. 22.

Meanwhile, China brought in 1.986 million tonnes of Brazilian soybeans in February, up 13 percent from the 1.75 million tonnes in the same month last year, customs data showed.

China crushes soybeans to produce soymeal for its massive livestock herds, but an African swine fever epidemic has dampened Chinese demand for animal feed.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; editing by Christian Schmollinger