The soybean  market has been waiting on Chinese demand for U.S. soybeans to pick up for weeks, but sales to that top buyer continue to be limited by competition from South America and other factors.
USDA reported new U.S. soybean sales to China of only 91,800 metric tons during the week ended Oct. 20. Largely as a result of the lack of Chinese demand, that week’s total soybean export sales were the lowest of the new marketing year to date.
U.S. soybean export sales commitments to China through Oct. 20, at roughly 468.5 million bushels (nearly 12.751milion metric tons (mmt)), are down 23.5% from a year earlier.
Sales to China are also being shipped at an even slower rate. Actual U.S. soybean shipments to China, at about 99.7 million bushels, are 33% behind a year earlier.
Amid the slow Chinese demand, total U.S. soybean export commitments for 2011-2012 have slipped 33% behind a year earlier with USDA only forecasting an 8.3% drop in yearly exports.
According to the China National Grain & Oils Information Center (CNGOIC), a Chinese government-backed think tank, China has bought 1.34 mmt of U.S. soybeans over the past four weeks, only about one third of the 4.03 mmt it bought during the same period a year ago.
The CNGOIC cited a lack of profits in China’s crushing industry, high stocks of soybeans at Chinese ports and competition from South American supplies, as reasons for the decline in U.S. purchases.
Judging from the latest estimate of October soybean imports from China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC), continued South American competition, primarily from Brazil, is the biggest reason for slow U.S. sales to China.
The MOC said last Thursday that based on reports from importers during the Oct. 1-15 period, China's October soybean imports will likely total 4.83 mmt, up from its earlier forecast of 4.19 mmt.
That import figure would be up 17% from actual September soybean imports of 4.19 mmt and 29.5% from October 2010 imports of 3.73 mmt.
It’s not clear just when U.S. soybean sales to China and actual export shipments may pick up. The MOC sees China’s total soybean imports easing to 3.9 mmt in November.
Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest's marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.