December 8, 2018 / 4:01 AM / 6 months ago

China November soybean imports plunge 38 percent year-on-year on tariff war

BEIJING (Reuters) - China imported 5.38 million tonnes of soybeans in November, down 38 percent from a year ago and the lowest monthly number in two years, customs data showed on Saturday, after buyers avoided U.S. soybeans amid a tariff war with the United States.

FILE PHOTO - Workers transport imported soybeans at a port in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The world’s top soybean buyer usually gets most of its oilseed imports from the United States in the final months of the year when the U.S. harvest comes to market.

But purchases have plunged since Beijing hit the product with a 25 percent tariff on July 6.

November imports, which were the lowest since the 5.2 million tonnes imported in October 2016, were also down 22.2 percent from 6.92 million tonnes imported in October.

(Graphic: China soybean imports over time and for Jan-Nov 2018 - tmsnrt.rs/2QjdCcB)

China crushes soybeans to churn out animal feed ingredient soymeal for its massive livestock herds. It had managed to keep its imports steady with last year by buying up extra supplies from top exporter Brazil and other suppliers.

But after including November, imports for the first 11 months of the year have slipped 4.3 percent on the same period in 2017 to 82.3 million tonnes, according to the data released by the General Administration of Customs.

High stocks will more than cover industry needs, traders said before the data was released, particularly with demand declining amid outbreaks of African swine fever in the nation’s hog herd.

An agreement reached at the G20 summit late last month by China to start buying U.S. farm goods again is also expected to prompt some fresh soybean deals.

There are also forecasts of record soybean production in Brazil, which is due to start its harvest this month.

Imports of vegetable oils in November were 622,000 tonnes, up 32.3 percent from the previous month.

Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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