China expects its 2019/20 soybean output to hit highest in 14 years

BEIJING (Reuters) - China expects its soybean output to hit the highest level in 14 years in 2019/20, boosted by a plan to revitalize the nation’s production of the oilseed.

FILE PHOTO: Soybean plants are seen at a field in Suihua, Heilongjiang province, China September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The country will churn out 17.27 million tonnes of soybeans in the 2019/20 crop year, up 7.9% from the year before, its agriculture ministry said on Friday in a monthly crop report.

That would be the most since 2004/05, when China produced 17.4 million tonnes of the commodity, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture records. That was the only previous time its output has risen above 17 million tonnes.

China, which uses soybeans to make feed for its vast livestock herds, has been pushing to reduce its dependence on oilseed imports from the United States amid mounting trade tensions between the two.

China’s agriculture ministry expects 86.6 million tonnes of soybeans to be crushed in 2019/20, flat with levels in 2018/19 as an African swine fever epidemic curbs demand for feed ingredient soymeal.

The virus kills almost all pigs infected and has spread rapidly around the country.

China’s 2019/20 soybean imports will come in at a similar level to the year before at 84.9 million tonnes, the ministry said.

Soybean consumption in 2018/19 was forecast at 103.56 million tonnes.

China will import 3 million tonnes of corn in 2019/20, according to the monthly Chinese Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (CASDE).

The ministry also raised its forecast of China’s corn imports for 2018/19 to 2.5 million tonnes, up from the previous month’s estimate of 1.5 million tonnes.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Joseph Radford