China's 2021 soy imports from U.S. rise while Brazilian shipments fall

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  • Delayed Brazil harvest helped widen U.S. export window early '21
  • Beijing stepped up buying of U.S. farm produce under trade pact
  • American soybean shipments in December surge on previous month

BEIJING, Jan 20 (Reuters) - China's soybean imports from the United States in 2021 rose from the previous year as it stepped up agricultural purchases under a trade deal agreed with Washington, while annual Brazilian shipments fell, customs data showed on Thursday.

The world's top soybean importer brought in 32.3 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in 2021, up 25% from 25.89 million tonnes in 2020, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

Annual soybean imports from Brazil came in at 58.15 million tonnes, down 9.5% from 64.28 million in 2020, the data also showed.

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Under a trade pact with Washington, China agreed to increase its imports of all agricultural products from the United States in 2021 by no less than $19.5 billion more than a baseline of $24 billion worth of imports in 2017.

While China ramped up buying of U.S. farm produce including soybeans to fulfil the initial trade deal signed in January, 2020, delayed Brazilian exports in the first months of the year due to bad weather helped widen the U.S. export window.

Crushers stepped up soybean imports in the early months of 2021 to process into soymeal to feed the country's pig herd that was rapidly recovering from the ravages of a widespread African swine fever outbreak.

Cargoes from Brazil, the world's top exporter and producer, were delayed after rains slowed harvest and exports from the South American country, which pushed Chinese buyers to U.S. soybeans.

China bought 21.57 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in the first half of 2021, up 133% from 9.24 million tonnes in the previous year.

Shipments of Brazilian beans in the first six months of 2021 came in at 26.13 million tonnes, down 20% from 32.55 million tonnes in 2020.

Crush margins in China plunged to hit their record low levels in June, however, as hog margins fell, which reduced the appetite for soybeans from all origins.

Hurricane Ida hit major grains terminals in the U.S. in the fall, right when the American soybean peak season started, delaying exports.

China brought in 10.73 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in the second half of 2021, down from 16.64 million tonnes in the previous year, while Brazil cargos came in at 32.01 million tonnes, up slightly from 31.73 million tonnes in the same period in 2020, customs data showed.

China's total soybean imports in 2021 were 96.52 million tonnes, down 3.8% from 2020, as falling margins weighed on demand. read more

China Dec soybean imports from U.S. surge from November

For December, China's soy imports from the United States were 6.09 million tonnes, almost double compared to the previous month, customs data showed, as more cargoes arrived after earlier delays because of Hurricane Ida.

The figures were up 4% from the 5.84 million tonnes China bought from the U.S. a year earlier, according to the data.

Brazilian shipments in December were 2.12 million tonnes, up 80% from 1.18 million tonnes a year earlier, but down 43% from 3.75 million tonnes in November, the data showed.

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Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Christian Schmollinger and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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