Amid trade row, China to allow soybean imports from Ethiopia

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will start allowing soybean imports from Ethiopia, customs authorities said on Friday, as the world’s top importer seeks to reduce its reliance on supplies of the oilseed from the United States amid a trade row with Washington.

A worker looks on as imported soybeans are transported at a port in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The move would diversify soybean imports origins for China, and help meet domestic demand, the General Administration of Customs said in a statement on its website.

It follows this week’s China-Africa cooperation forum in Beijing, to which every African nation sent representatives, except for eSwatini.

Beijing is seeking more sources for soybean imports and finding alternative protein sources for animal feed after hitting U.S. beans with an additional 25-percent tariff in July as the world’s top two economies remain locked in a trade war.

Ethiopia, the world’s 6th largest coffee grower and the largest in Africa, is better known for its exports of high-quality arabica beans which are used in espressos and lattes for a smoother flavor.

Soybeans are processed to make meal for animal feed and oil for cooking.

The details of the new deal were unclear. The west African nation has been sending beans to China in increasing quantities over the past year.

It accounted for a tiny portion of the Asian nation’s total annual imports of about 95 million tonnes last year.

But in the first three months of 2018, imports were 13,508 tonnes, almost matching the 14,939 tonnes the African country brought in for the whole of 2017. [SOY/CN]

The government stopped publishing data showing origins and destinations of commodity imports and exports in April.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Tom Hogue and Clarence Fernandez