China buys U.S. soybeans, pork amid uncertainty about trade war settlement

FILE PHOTO: Soybeans sit in a truck as they are loaded at the Ruff Brothers Grain elevator in Leonore, Illinois, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Acker

CHICAGO (Reuters) - China continued to buy U.S. farm products in early November, even as uncertainty about a potential settlement to the trade war between the world’s two largest economies roiled the markets, U.S. government data showed on Friday.

The U.S. Agriculture Department’s weekly report on export sales showed that Chinese buyers booked deals to purchase 760,527 tonnes of soybeans in the week ended Nov. 7. U.S. exporters also shipped out 693,527 tonnes of the oilseed China.

China was the top buyer of U.S. soybeans during the week, accounting for 61 percent of the weekly total of 1.256 million tonnes. The United States is typically the top exporter of soybeans to China during the fall, with supplies abundant as farmers harvest their crop.

U.S.-China trade talks are set to continue with a telephone call on Friday as both sides seek to hammer out a phase one trade pact, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, adding that progress was being made on the agreement’s details.

Since the start of the marketing year on Sept. 1, Chinese buyers have committed to buying 8.036 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans, including 129,000 tonnes in a deal the government announced on Thursday. Of that total, 3.153 million tonnes have been shipped so far.

At this time last year, 647,990 tonnes in soybean sales had been booked by Chinese buyers and 339,003 tonnes had been shipped. Two years ago, before the trade war began, soybean export sales to China totaled 18.647 million tonnes, with 13.268 million tonnes shipped, by mid-November.

Pork export sales to China totaled 5,549 tonnes during the week, the biggest in a month. The USDA said that 10,933 tonnes of U.S. pork were shipped to China during the reporting period, in line with recent weeks.

China has boosted its purchases of pork as an outbreak of the deadly African swine fever has devastated its hog herds in recent months, leading to an unprecedented shortage of meat in the country.

Reporting by Mark Weinraub; editing by Jonathan Oatis