China's January-February soybean imports from U.S. rise as truce cargoes arrive

FILE PHOTO: Soybeans are loaded on a truck after being harvested at a farm in Caaguazu, Paraguay February 17, 2020. Picture taken February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s soybean imports from the United States in the first two months of the year rose sixfold from the same period last year, customs data showed on Wednesday, as cargoes booked during a trade truce between the countries arrived.

China, the world’s top importer of the oilseed, brought in 6.101 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in January and February, up from 1.044 million tonnes in the same months in 2019, when shipments were still largely curbed because of the Sino-U.S. trade war.

The imports were in line with China’s shipments from the U.S. in December, which had surged to 3.09 million tonnes, 44 times the level a year ago.

Chinese crushers have bought American soybeans in several rounds of purchases following a trade truce agreed in December 2018, and after Beijing issued waivers to importers that would exempt them from extra tariffs on some U.S. cargoes.

Shipments from Brazil in the first two months of the year came in at 5.14 million tonnes, down 26% from 6.916 million tonnes last year, according to the data from the General Administration of Customs.

China’s total soybean imports in the first two months of 2020 jumped 14.2% year-on-year to 13.51 million tonnes, according to customs data released on March 7.

Cargoes from the United States are expected to fall in the following months as the Brazilian harvest has come to market in late February and early March. Cheaper Brazilian beans offer better crush margins for Chinese mills.

Chinese buyers have also bought more Brazilian beans recently to replenish low inventories after the coronavirus outbreak disrupted domestic production.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh; editing by Richard Pullin