Column: China’s Brazilian corn haul surges; U.S. soy hopes briefly rise

Farmer collect corn at a plantation in Maringa
Farmers collect corn at a plantation in Maringa, Brazil, July 13, 2022. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer

NAPERVILLE, Ill., Dec 7 (Reuters) - More than two years after China re-entered their market, U.S. corn exporters are finally being displaced by Brazilian ones as the No. 2 exporter’s shipments to China are set to explode this month.

Nine vessels totaling 606,540 tonnes of Brazilian corn were set for sail to China this month, according to Tuesday’s shipping lineup from Williams Shipping Agency. That compares with two shipments totaling 93,250 tonnes in November based on lineup data.

Phytosanitary requirements prevented China from importing much corn from Brazil before last month, when Beijing approved several Brazilian corn traders for export. According to Brazilian records, its previous largest annual corn volume to China was about 172,000 tonnes in 2016.

Annual Brazil corn exports to China

Data published on Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed U.S. corn exports to China of 505,623 tonnes in October, the lowest monthly volume in exactly a year. That puts total shipments to China in the first two months of 2022-23 up 75% from last year though one-third lower than in 2020.

China’s remaining U.S. corn balance is thin, with unshipped 2022-23 sales at 1.8 million tonnes as of Nov. 24. For reference, that is equivalent to the monthly average volume of U.S. corn to China between February and May 2022.

Brazil’s corn may be hogging China’s attention for now, but U.S. soybeans could have an opportunity over the next few weeks until Brazil’s presumably massive soy crop starts hitting the market. Exporter association Anec on Wednesday pegged Brazil’s December soy exports at 1.7 million tonnes, below the five-year average of 2.5 million.

China has been buying some U.S. beans lately, and although the daily amounts are not as glamorous as some in the past, there could be more than meets the eye. China and unknown destinations, frequently assumed to be China, purchased 1.9 million tonnes of U.S. soy in the week ended Nov. 10.

However, only about 40% of that was suggested over four daily sales during that week, an unusually small share. If that trend continues, the last two weeks of U.S. bean sales could be better than expected.

Five bean flashes to either China or unknown have occurred so far in the two weeks ended Dec. 8, totaling 880,000 tonnes, most of it in the second week. Strong sales in these two weeks could potentially justify maintaining U.S. export targets.

Increased U.S. bean interest from China could make sense given its disappointing November imports of 7.35 million tonnes, well below the anticipated 9 million-plus. China’s October-November soy haul was 25% below average, though domestic soymeal prices are down 17% from mid-November records.

Analysts expect relatively modest 2022-23 U.S. soybean sales in the week ended Dec. 1 between 0.6 million and 1.2 million tonnes, data which will be available on Thursday morning. Soy sales have landed near the low end of the range in recent weeks except for the one ended Nov. 10.

Karen Braun is a market analyst for Reuters. Views expressed above are her own.

Editing by Matthew Lewis

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As a columnist for Reuters, Karen focuses on all aspects of the global agriculture markets with a primary focus in grains and oilseeds. Karen comes from a strong science background and has a passion for data, statistics, and charts, and she uses them to add context to whatever hot topic is driving the markets. Karen holds degrees in meteorology and sometimes features that expertise in her columns. Follow her on Twitter @kannbwx for her market insights.