BEIJING, Sept 8 (Reuters) - China imported 9.12 million tonnes of soybeans in August, up 15 percent from July, according to Reuters calculations based on official data released on Saturday, as buyers continued to buy from Brazil after Beijing imposed tariffs on U.S. shipments.
August figures were up from last year’s 8.44 million tonnes.
“The market continues to buy Brazilian soybeans. But there is only a certain number of soybeans out there, and inventories here (China) are high,” said Tian Hao, senior analyst with First Futures, speaking before the August data was released.
Beijing imposed a 25 percent tariff on a list of U.S. products totalling $34 billion in value, including soybeans, on July 6, in response to U.S. penalties on Chinese goods worth the same amount.
Soybeans, crushed to make cooking oil and the protein-rich animal feed ingredient soymeal, were the biggest U.S. agriculture export to China last year at a value of $12.3 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Chinese buyers had already been heavily purchasing soybeans from Brazil before Beijing’s hefty taxes on U.S. cargoes took effect, on worries that supplies will tighten up and prices will rise in the fourth quarter.
In July, the buying spree ebbed after China’s national soybean and soymeal stocks climbed to a record. China’s national soymeal stocks were at 1.18 million tonnes this week, slightly down from the record high level in July at 1.27 million tonnes.
For the first eight months of the year, China brought in 62 million tonnes of soybeans, down 2.1 percent on the same period a year earlier, according to official data released by the General Administration of Customs on Saturday.
Imports in the coming months before November should be over 7 million tonnes per month, but supplies might tighten afterwards, as Brazil’s soybean season nears its end, analysts said.
Some see shortages further ahead. China may run out of soybeans in early 2019, an executive from a top state-owned crusher said this week, as imports of the oilseed from the United States were expected to grind to a halt after January.
China, which imports 60 percent of the soybeans traded worldwide, bought 32.9 million tonnes from the United States in 2017, accounting for 34 percent of its total purchases. (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Josephine Mason Editing by Jacqueline Wong)